AUDITOR: Richie Farmer fostered "toxic culture of entitlement" - WDRB 41 Louisville News

AUDITOR: Richie Farmer fostered "toxic culture of entitlement"

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- On Monday, State Auditor Adam Edelen released a special examination of the administration of former Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer, which found, "a toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at Kentucky taxpayers' expense."

The report is expected to be referred to the Kentucky Attorney General's office, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, the IRS, the Kentucky Department of Revenue, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Personnel Board.

"The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I," Edelen said, according to a news release. "The report paints a clear picture of an administration that had no qualms about treating taxpayer resources as its own. The former commissioner had state employees on state time take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard, build a basketball court in his back yard, and even chauffeur his dog. He showered himself with gifts and office equipment and rewarded his friends with jobs. These are just some of the documented abuses that should outrage every Kentuckian."

The exam details an extravagant conference hosted by the former commissioner that cost Kentucky taxpayers more than $96,000; multiple instances of misuse of department resources and state employees for personal benefit; questionable spending of state and federal dollars, including tobacco settlement money; time sheet and travel reimbursement abuses by employees who had close relationships with the former commissioner, numerous merit system abuses; and several management issues, according to the release.

Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said Monday, "We can move forward move forward in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture now.  Today is a new day."

Edelen announced his plans to audit the former KDA administration in January at the request of newly-elected KDA Commissioner James Comer, who wanted to restore morale within the department and ensure the integrity of its operations. KDA employees had come forward with troubling allegations involving the administration of Comer's predecessor.

The Department of Agriculture has roughly 300 employees and a total annual budget of $38 million, according to the news release.

The biggest expense in the report is state vehicles.  Half the Agriculture Department had one to take home, costing $811,000 over five years.

Farmer has remained silent throughout the investigation.  He even refused to speak to the auditors.

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