Politics & Government

Ex-ag chief Richie Farmer returns some missing computers

Richie Farmer at the 2010 Keeneland Spring Meet.
Richie Farmer at the 2010 Keeneland Spring Meet.

FRANKFORT — Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has returned some of the missing state computer equipment he was issued during his administration, according to Holly VonLuehrte, general counsel for the Department of Agriculture.

The move came after the Herald-Leader reported last week that about $500,000 in state property had disappeared from the department or could not be accounted for properly. New Agriculture Commissioner James Comer turned the list of missing or improperly accounted-for goods over to state Auditor Adam Edelen's office last week after Comer requested a sweeping audit.

On Tuesday, Farmer returned two of four laptops that were issued to him in May 2010, VonLuehrte said. He also returned a Dell monitor and an HP printer.

Two of Farmer's laptops are still missing, as are two GPS units, according to records obtained by the Herald-Leader on Thursday.

The auditor's office apparently has taken custody of the returned computers.

"We have some items in secure storage at the request of the Department of Agriculture," said Tom Bennett, Edelen's chief of staff. Bennett could not comment on whether they would be examined by computer experts to see what they have been used for.

Bennett said Farmer has not been interviewed by auditors. "Not to my knowledge," he said.

Department records released to the newspaper last week also showed that about $334,000 in computers and other equipment had been marked as "lost." Some of that equipment apparently has turned up in a trailer where state property was stored after an agriculture office flooded, officials said.

And new records also have surfaced tracking some of the $146,000 in other computers and equipment to surplus goods, agriculture department officials said.

Comer said Thursday that he hoped the audit would be completed within six weeks. Farmer could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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