FRANKFORT — Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon called on state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer Monday to reimburse the state for Farmer's hotel stay during last month's Sweet Sixteen boys' basketball tournament in Lexington.
Farmer spent $1,576 for four nights in a suite at the Hilton Lexington/Downtown. Farmer lives 28 miles from Rupp Arena, in Frankfort.
"At a time when Kentucky families are tightening their belts, it's inexcusable that Richie Farmer spent $359 a night on a hotel just a few miles from his house," Logsdon said in a statement.
"If Commissioner Farmer wants to stay at a luxury hotel instead of driving the 28 miles to his own house, that's fine — but he shouldn't use the taxpayers' money for it. Richie Farmer needs to do the right thing, admit that this was a horrible way to spend the people's money and reimburse the state for this hotel stay," the statement said.
Farmer, a Republican, is running for lieutenant governor this year on the gubernatorial ticket of Senate President David Williams.
Farmer also was reimbursed for $40 spent on valet parking, according to expense records obtained by the Herald-Leader.
Farmer spokesman Bill Clary said last week that the state Department of Agriculture was late in booking a room this year, and only the suite was available.
He said Farmer needed the room because he spent long days at the tournament to promote the Kentucky Proud program — a marketing effort to encourage Kentuckians to buy local food products.
In an email Monday, Farmer said, "Kentucky Proud is one of the most cost-effective and useful programs in state government, and the Sweet 16 tournament is one of its biggest statewide marketing opportunities.
"A University of Kentucky study shows that every dollar invested in the program returns nearly $5 in additional farm income for the state.
"The overall investment in Kentucky Proud and the results speak for themselves ... as is evident from the growth in members from 36 in 2004 to over 2,400 today. Our promotional strategy within Kentucky Proud is obviously working, and I do spend a tremendous amount of time making appearances for the program."