FRANKFORT — A federal grand jury met in Lexington on Friday to discuss possible improprieties by former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, but the panel had not returned any indictments when the courthouse closed to the public at 5 p.m.
This week, J. Guthrie True, an attorney who represents Farmer, confirmed that several former Kentucky Department of Agriculture employees had been asked to testify Friday before the grand jury. True declined to name those employees.
Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, said this week that he could neither confirm nor deny that there was an investigation involving Farmer.
Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said in September that the FBI had started an investigation into Farmer's tenure. Farmer served as commissioner from 2004 until 2011.
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In March, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission accused Farmer of 42 ethics violations, the most ever levied against a public official. That case is ongoing.
Most of the ethics charges stemmed from an investigation by State Auditor Adam Edelen last year that said a "toxic culture of entitlement" permeated the agriculture department under Farmer. The report found that Farmer used state workers to build a basketball court in his backyard, take him hunting and shopping, mow his yard, and chauffeur his dog between Frankfort and Louisville during the State Fair — all while on the clock.