“This audit was a serious and necessary step toward cleaning the slate and restoring the taxpayers’ confidence in this department,” Comer said. “I appreciate the auditor’s commitment to this cause, and I hope we’ve set the standard for bipartisan cooperation in the interest of better government for all Kentuckians.”
Seven professional auditors reviewed thousands of documents, including emails, invoices, reports, policies, timesheets, travel vouchers and personnel files from 2004 through 2011, with an emphasis on the last four calendar years. They conducted interviews with more than 50 individuals, including current and former KDA staff, Kentucky Proud vendors, the former spouse of the former commissioner and others. Auditors attempted to interview the former commissioner, but he declined the opportunity.
Misuse of state resources, employees for personal benefit
The exam documents seven findings related to the misuse of department resources and staff by Richie Farmer. The report alleges:
Over a two-year period, the former personnel director was directed to reserve hotel rooms in the names of two employees who she knew would not be staying overnight during the State Fair. Farmer used the rooms for his family members at a cost of $4,257 to taxpayers.
State employees reportedly performed work at Farmer’s house on state time, including constructing a basketball court and moving a gun safe from his garage to his basement. Employees also drove Farmer on shopping and hunting trips. In one instance, he reportedly called a merit employee who was attending a training course at a local university and directed him to drive him to an outdoor sportsman’s store in Indiana. In another, he reportedly directed an employee to drive him to hunt. The former commissioner reportedly shot a deer from his state-issued vehicle and directed the employee to bag it for him.
In 2007 and 2011, Farmer reportedly directed a staff member to fill Christmas baskets with items purchased by the department and donated by Kentucky Proud vendors for promotional purposes, then apparently gifted the baskets to family.
Farmer directed staff to purchase two small refrigerators with department funds. The former commissioner previously returned one of the $179 refrigerators to the department. His former spouse told auditors that she used the second refrigerator at her workplace and has since turned it over to the auditor’s office.
Farmer took four laptops that had been intended to replace the computers of four staff members for his personal use. He returned three laptops and related equipment in January. Auditors discovered the laptop hard drives had been wiped in an uncharacteristically aggressive manner. One laptop and its accessories, plus another laptop that had been assigned to the former commissioner, remain unaccounted for.
Farmer didn’t report any gifts during his eight-year tenure to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Gifts worth more than $200 are required to be reported. The exam found several gifts worth more than $200 to the commissioner, including $900 worth of free concrete from a local vendor to construct a basketball court in his backyard.
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