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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer was charged with 42 ethics violations, the most charges ever filed against a single individual in the executive branch ethics commission's history.
The Executive Branch Ethics Commission held a closed-session in Frankfort Monday morning to decide whether Farmer would face sanctions for accusations of mishandling money and abusing his power during his two terms as agriculture commissioner. Shortly after 1 p.m., it was announced that Farmer would face the charges.
"In the nine years I have been with the commission, I have not seen anything that compares to this abuse of public trust and public office," said Commission Executive Director John Steffen, following the vote by the commission.
A scathing audit released last spring claimed Farmer created a "toxic culture of entitlement" while he served as Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner.
The commission conducted a 10-month investigation of its own before Monday's decision.
"You will see misuse of state employees," Steffen told reporters, "misuse of state resources, improper grants, improper use of Kentucky Proud funds -- the list goes on and on."
And so do the page after page of violations that include using workers on state time to take Farmer and his family to medical appointments, personal shopping trips, and hunting trips.
Farmer was also cited for using state workers and state resources to mow his lawn, build a basketball court in his back yard -- even chauffeur his dog.
"Forty-two counts is a lot of counts, the most the commission has ever issued at one time," said Steffen.
Six other agriculture department employees were also cited; all but one are no longer with the department.
The ethics commission issued a call to state workers to come forward when they see violations like those for which Farmer has been cited.
"Supervisors cannot just turn a blind eye, they need to report it," said ethics board chairman David Denton.
"I too am a state employee and I am personally offended by what happened in this case," said Steffen.
Farmer could not be reached for comment. There was no listed number at his home in Manchester, KY.
During a phone interview, his attorney, Guthrie True of Frankfort, told WDRB's Bennett Haeberle:
"We are disappointed that the ethics commission decided to charge him with 42 counts. It seems to parrot the auditor's report which we felt constituted no wrongdoing. I think things have been drastically, drastically blown out of proportion."
A hearing officer will now decide the next move. If found guilty, Farmer could be forced to pay up to $210,000.
Gov. Steve Beshear was asked to comment Monday, but said it's best that he stay out of it.
"I saw the news like everybody else today and that matter is in the hands of the executive branch ethics commission and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on it," Beshear said.