Politics & Government

Judge upholds ethics violation against woman linked to Richie Farmer

Richie Farmer, right, and lawyer Guthrie True, left U.S. District Court after sentencing in Frankfort, Ky., on Jan. 14, 2014. Farmer was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner.
Richie Farmer, right, and lawyer Guthrie True, left U.S. District Court after sentencing in Frankfort, Ky., on Jan. 14, 2014. Farmer was sentenced to 27 months in prison after pleading guilty to misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner. palcala@herald-leader.com

A judge has upheld a state ethics code violation against a woman linked with former state Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd said Wednesday that he would not alter the January 2015 decision by the state Executive Branch Ethics Commission that found Stephanie Hiser had falsified state time sheets.

The commission ordered Hiser to pay a $5,000 fine — the maximum under state law — for falsifying state time sheets. It also accepted a hearing officer’s findings that Hiser did little work in her job at the state Department of Agriculture.

Hiser appealed the ruling to Franklin Circuit Court. Her attorney, Ted Shouse of Louisville, did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment on whether Hiser will appeal Shepherd’s ruling.

Hiser was Farmer’s girlfriend when he hired her as a staff assistant. She held the $5,000-per-month job from Oct. 31, 2011, until the start of 2012, when she was fired by James Comer after he took office as state agriculture commissioner. Hiser’s name was Stephanie Sandmann at the time.

Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball icon, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for misusing state resources during his tenure as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner and was ordered to pay $120,500 in restitution.

Farmer, a guard for the 1991-92 UK team dubbed “The Unforgettables,” pleaded guilty in September 2013 to two counts of misappropriating government resources while overseeing the agriculture department from 2004 to 2011.

Prosecutors alleged that Farmer, a Republican, had created political jobs for close friends who performed little or no work. Those employees allegedly ran personal errands for Farmer, including building a basketball court at his home in Frankfort and chauffeuring his dog, while being paid by the state.

An April 2013 indictment alleged that Farmer took a variety of state property, including electronic equipment, guns, knives, refrigerators and filing cabinets.

Farmer was incarcerated from March 2014 until last Dec. 18, when he went to a halfway house in Lexington. He was released Jan. 21. He worked for a few months at a London restaurant and filed for bankruptcy in May.

Farmer also faced a 42-count charge brought by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Those charges included misuse of state employees, misuse of state resources, improper use of grants and improper use of Kentucky Proud marketing funds. Farmer settled with the commission, admitting 35 of the charges. He agreed to pay a $63,000 civil penalty

The commission also found eight others in Farmer’s administration guilty of violating state ethics rules.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics

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