Politics & Government

Ethics complaints battles continue between gubernatorial candidates

Richie Farmer, who won the Republican primary race for Lt. Governor, celebrated his win at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa in Lexington on May 17, 2011. Charles Bertram | Staff
Richie Farmer, who won the Republican primary race for Lt. Governor, celebrated his win at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa in Lexington on May 17, 2011. Charles Bertram | Staff ALL

FRANKFORT — The Legislative Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint Tuesday filed by state Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Logsdon accusing Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams of not reporting his gambling winnings to the watchdog agency.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission about the use of taxpayers' dollars to buy a refrigerator for Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer's house.

Farmer is running for lieutenant governor on the ticket with Williams against Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. Lexington lawyer Gatewood Galbraith is running as an independent with Frankfort marketing consultant Dea Riley.

The candidates' political parties have been busy this year filing ethics complaints against their opponents.

The Legislative Ethics Commission voted 5-4 Tuesday to dismiss Logsdon's accusation filed last month that Williams did not report gambling winnings on a financial disclosure form as required by state law.

Commission director Tony Wilhoit said the panel's vote to dismiss the complaint was based "on the lack of probable cause."

Logsdon's complaint accused Williams of not reporting his gambling winnings from 2002.

As president of the state Senate, Williams is required to periodically file state documents listing personal financial information, but Logsdon said gambling winnings that Williams reported on personal income tax returns weren't included on his financial disclosure form.

The discrepancy turned up when a judge unsealed records in an old divorce file that showed that Williams, an opponent of expanding gambling in Kentucky, had more than $5,000 in gambling income in 2002.

In the complaint, Logsdon charged that Williams intentionally misled the public by failing to report the gambling income.

Williams' campaign chairman, former state Adjutant General Donald Storm, commented on Logsdon's dismissed complaint and the new one filed Tuesday by the Kentucky Democratic Party.

"It appears the Kentucky Democratic Party track record on filing these bogus complaints isn't so good, as they tend to get dismissed fairly quickly.

"They are simply using the levers of governments to generate headlines in a pathetic attempt to cover up Gov. Beshear's abysmal records when it comes to job creation.

"We're sure the ethics commission has more pressing matters with real evidence to attend to, such as the state employee fund-raising scandal that continues to brew inside Beshear's administration."

Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson last month filed a complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, accusing Beshear of pressuring state government employees for campaign contributions.

Robertson also sent his complaint to the Registry of Election Finance, asking that agency to also open an investigation.

The Beshear campaign said the complaint was based on unsubstantiated third-party rumors.

The Democratic Party's new complaint about Farmer's refrigerator also was sent to state Attorney General Jack Conway and Auditor Crit Luallen for possible investigation.

"Richie Farmer clearly sees the taxpayer dollars that fund the Department of Agriculture as his own personal slush funds — used to buy cars, Caribbean trips, hotel suites, candy, and now, appliances for his own home," Logsdon said in a release.

"Commissioner Farmer and his rampant abuse of taxpayer dollars for his personal benefit must be stopped."

The Courier-Journal reported last week that the state Department of Agriculture bought two small refrigerators within a period of a few months in 2010, one of which was kept in Farmer's home office until earlier this year.

Bill Clary, spokesman for the department, said one of the $179 Frigidaire refrigerators was in Farmer's home in Frankfort from the day it was purchased in February 2010 until May of this year, when Farmer moved after his wife filed for divorce.

It was moved to the Department of Agriculture's headquarters in Frankfort, but Clary has said he doesn't know where the second refrigerator is.

Clary defended the expenditure because Farmer worked out of his home more in early 2010 because he had back problems.

The question of a state-purchased refrigerator in Farmer's house first surfaced in an anonymous complaint sent to the state Personnel Board. It alleged that department employee David Fint had been directed by Farmer to buy a refrigerator at Lowe's on his state credit card and deliver it to Farmer's house.

Fint has declined comment.

Democratic chief Logsdon noted other media reports about Farmer's state expenses, including failure to report personal miles on his state vehicle, use of $1,600 in state funds to stay in a hotel suite 24 miles from his home, an eight-day Caribbean trip with three aides and their families for nearly $10,000 to attend a conference and the purchase of new vehicles for his department, including a $35,340 Chevy Suburban for his own use.

"These new allegations are serious, and given Commissioner Farmer's serial abuse of taxpayer dollars, an audit and investigation are warranted," Logsdon said. "Richie Farmer ought to be held accountable for his outrageous behavior."

Kentucky Democratic Party spokesman Matt McGrath chastised the ethics commission for dismissing Logsdon's complaint.

"The Legislative Ethics Commission's shameful decision to whitewash Williams' actions, including their refusal to allow Chairman Logsdon to testify today with an attorney present, will have a chilling effect, if not outright eliminate, valid complaints being filed by individuals in the future," McGrath said.

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