FRANKFORT, Ky. - The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission on Monday issued 42 charges of ethics violations against former state agriculture commissioner Richie Farmer.
The violations include misuse of state resources, misuse of employees, and improper use of Kentucky Proud Funds.
“We have not seen misuse of office at this level. In the nearly nine years I’ve been with commission, I’ve not seen anything that compares to this abuse of the public trust and abuse of public office,” said John Steffen, Executive Director of the Ethics Commission.
Farmer became a household name in Kentucky as a star on the UK basketball team in the 1990s. He served two terms in office as head of the Department of Agriculture before running for lieutenant governor in 2011.
“We’ve said all along that we don’t believe that Commissioner Farmer engaged in any ethical wrongdoing or any ethical improprieties and that there is a political motivation ongoing here,” said Farmer's attorney Guthrie True.
Seven other people connected to the Department of Agriculture were also charged with ethics violations. The lengthy investigation prompted the the ethics commission to issue an advisory opinion, urging government workers to come forward when they witness wrongdoing.
“We want to send a message to all state employees that they need to report to us. We have whistleblower protection if they come to use and we will protect their identities. But we need their help to make sure ethics violations of this magnitude do not happen in the future,” said Steffen.
An administrative hearing will be held to determine if Farmer is guilty of the ethics violations. He faces a maximum penalty of up to $5,000 per charge, totaling $210,000.