Richie Farmer: greedy or easily misled?

State Auditor Adam Edelen and Frankfort lawyer Guthrie True agreed on one thing Monday morning: that Richie Farmer, a former agriculture commissioner and a member of the University of Kentucky's "Unforgettables" basketball team, enjoyed icon status in this state.

Beyond that, though, the pictures of Farmer the two men painted were diametrically opposed.

"The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us," Edelen said at a press conference accompanying the release of the findings of a four-month audit of Farmer's tenure at the Department of Agriculture.

The audit, requested by current Commissioner James Comer shortly after he took office, found what the auditor described as a "toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at Kentucky taxpayers' expense." The report listed 41 instances of alleged misuse of state resources and personnel during Farmer's eight years in office.

True, who is representing Farmer, described his client as a "basketball icon" who was accustomed to receiving gifts "you or I might not receive," who didn't know the "ways of Frankfort" before running for office and who "trusted and relied upon the advice of numerous professionals within the Department of Agriculture."

Since the audit's findings fall right in line with previously detailed instances of Farmer's extravagance in purchasing state vehicles and spending nights in hotels while attending events less than an hour from his home, the tendency here is to go with its description of what went down at the department on Farmer's watch.

But either way, this episode contains a teaching moment.

If we didn't elect (twice) an icon whose sense of entitlement led him to misuse state money and workers for the personal benefit of himself and others, we elected (twice) an icon so naïve as to be easily led astray by those who were knowledgeable in the "ways of Frankfort."

Either way should make us look more closely the next time an icon asks for our vote.