Politics & Government

Ethics panel fines former agriculture employee under Richie Farmer

FRANKFORT — The Executive Branch Ethics Commission levied fines in four cases of state worker misconduct Monday, including one involving Danita Fentress-Laird, who worked at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture last year under then-Commissioner Richie Farmer.

Fentress-Laird signed a settlement agreement, acknowledging she violated the state ethics law and agreeing to pay a $1,500 fine.

As a political appointee under Farmer, who left office in January, Fentress-Laird tried to tap into the state merit system by creating a merit job for herself and taking actions to ensure she would get it. By law, merit jobs are supposed to be filled competitively.

New Agriculture Commissioner James Comer fired Fentress-Laird after taking office earlier this month.

In other settlement deals announced Monday, the ethics commission:

■ Fined Bradley Lowe $2,500. Lowe, then a conservation officer at the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, flashed his badge at a Lexington police officer in 2011 while drinking with his 15-year-old daughter at Paddock Bar and Patio. Lowe used his badge to order drinks for his underage daughter and told people, incorrectly, that he was a federal agent investigating "an Arab sex slave ring."

■ Fined Robert Habig $500. Habig, then a state parks business manager, used his position twice in 2011 to rent boats for his family at a state park without paying the rental fees.

■ Fined Grayson County Property Valuation Administrator Roger Tomes $1,000. Tomes hired his son to work under him in violation of state nepotism rules.