Politics & Government

Kentucky Personnel Board will consider Richie Farmer audit in July

Richie Farmer spoke to the media during a Lexington press conference in November of 2011. Photo by Matt Goins
Richie Farmer spoke to the media during a Lexington press conference in November of 2011. Photo by Matt Goins

FRANKFORT — The state Personnel Board plans to take up in July a critical audit of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture under former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer.

The board directed its staff in May to review seven findings that dealt with personnel issues in the audit released April 30 by state Auditor Adam Edelen and report back as soon as possible.

During a board meeting Monday, executive director Mark Sipek distributed information to board members about the audit and additional information provided by the agriculture department. The board decided to consider the information at its July 13 meeting.

Edelen's audit said "a toxic culture of entitlement" permeated the agriculture department under Farmer, a former basketball star at the University of Kentucky and a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor last year. He was agriculture commissioner for the past eight years.

Edelen sent his audit to several investigative agencies, including the attorney general's office, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and the personnel board.

The audit listed findings dealing with misuse of state employees and resources, including pre-selection of candidates for state merit jobs and the agriculture department's handling of monetary awards to employees and their reclassifications.

Farmer's attorney, Guthrie True, has dismissed the audit as political and self-serving and said he does not think law enforcement will be interested in it.

In January, the Personnel Board found that the department did not follow the law when it changed the jobs of two high-level workers under Farmer. It offered recommendations to the department, but they did not include any criminal charges.

The ethics commission, meanwhile, levied a $1,500 fine against one of the employees.

Personnel board member Don Blevins said Monday that he wanted to make sure no one was employed at the agriculture department who was hired improperly.

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