Auction of rifles and knives at center of Richie Farmer scandal brings $21,415

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMay 5, 2014 

FRANKFORT — More than 400 people showed up Monday morning for a chance to bid on some of the 13 rifles and 16 knives at the center of former state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer's downfall.

Among the bidders was Matt Gosser, an ardent University of Kentucky basketball fan who spent $2,150 on two of the Remington 270 rifles forfeited by Farmer, one of four seniors on the popular 1991-92 UK basketball team known as "The Unforgettables."

Gosser, an appliance and furniture store operator in Russell Springs, said he planned to "put them in a safe and make them a family heirloom" in honor of the basketball star from Clay County.

Farmer is serving a 27-month sentence in a federal prison in West Virginia for misusing state resources.

The auction, which attracted 421 registered bidders, netted $21,415 for the state Department of Agriculture. It was held on the grounds of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Farmer's personal rifle — its serial number ending in "32," the number of Farmer's jersey when he played for Rick Pitino at UK — brought $1,400, the highest price at the auction for a single item. The buyer declined to be interviewed.

The Case knives — engraved with Farmer's name on the blade — sold for a total of $6,765. The rifles — each with the words "Kentucky Proud" under the scope — went for $14,650.

The knives initially cost about $80 each; the rifles were about $500 each.

The rifles and knives were intended as gifts for agriculture commissioners and their top aides from member states of the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture at a Kentucky conference in 2008, but more were ordered than were needed.

Farmer gave away 12 rifles and 12 knives, and he kept the rest for himself.

He was in office from 2004 to 2012 and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2011 on the Republican ticket David Williams of Burkesville, who then was state Senate president.

Farmer, 44, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of misappropriating government resources during his tenure. He also was ordered to pay $120,500 in restitution. He admitted to hiring friends and having them do little or no work and to using state employees to build a basketball court at his Frankfort home.

Farmer, whose jersey hangs in Rupp Arena, reported to prison in mid-March.

His successor, James Comer, said Monday that he was "tickled to death" about the auction.

Comer said the items represented the end of the Farmer administration, and proceeds would help develop a garden project in urban Louisville for members of Boys & Girls Clubs.

He also said the department had two cases of bourbon left from the 2008 conference, but state laws prevented them from being sold at auction.

The bourbon might be donated to charities for use in fundraisers, and one bottle might go to a historic preservation group that wants it "for history's sake," said Comer's chief of staff, Holly Harris VonLuehrte.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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