Richie Farmer's girlfriend unlikely to stay at Ag Dept. and Farmer's SUV to be sold, Comer says

11/30/2011 06:32 PM

Agriculture Commissioner-Elect James Comer said he will sell the $35,000 SUV current Ag Commissioner Richie Farmer bought with taxpayers dollars last year. And Comer said he isn’t likely to keep Farmer’s recently-hired girlfriend on staff either.

Farmer, who ends his second term as agriculture commissioner on Jan. 1, has come under scrutiny for his stewardship of taxpayer resources, including a trip to a conference in the Virgin Islands last fall, the department’s purchase of the $35,000 Chevy Suburban, the purchase of two mini fridges and a pair of flat screen TVs and allowing political appointees to burrow into protected merit jobs.

Most recently the Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth reported earlier this month that Farmer appointed his girlfriend, Stephanie Sandmann to a $5,000-a-month job for the final two months of Farmer’s administration.

“I couldn’t believe it when I first read it … I really haven’t met this young lady, so I really can’t comment,” Comer said on Pure Politics Wednesday.

Asked whether he would keep someone with Sandmann’s thin level of experience in agriculture, Comer said, “Right off the top of my head, I would say no.” (2:55 of the interview.)

“Again, I think that we owe her the opportunity to come before the transition team and every current non-merit employee is going to be invited to come before the transition team to talk about what they currently do and what they think they can do in the future,” Comer said. “I can make a prediction that there will be a lot of new faces in the department.”

Comer also said he will “change the way spending has occurred” in the department (4:00 of the video) and will sell the department’s Chevy Suburban that Farmer purchased for his official use (4:30).

“I’m not saying anything negative toward Richie Farmer,” Comer said (4:45).but I will say the office will be led in a new direction and transparency will be a number one priority.”

Comer said he hasn’t seen the two TVs Farmer purchased for the Ag Department conference room.

Comer also addressed questions about Farmer’s legacy and reputation (Watch at 6:30 of the video for his answers).

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