Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer doesn't expect the indictment of his predecessor, Richie Farmer, to damage the department. Comer says he feels sorry for Farmer's family because of the indictment, but it won't be a distraction for the department.
Comer and his staff have cooperated with multiple investigations into Farmer, and his goal is to distance the office from the officeholder.
"I hope the confidence has been restored. I work hard every day, I go to events every day to promote agriculture. We brought in all new management, we're efficient, we're transparent," said Comer, a Monroe County native.
Farmer has been indicted on five counts related to allegations he misused his office to obtain gifts and misappropriated state funds during his two terms as commissioner. He could face up to ten years in prison and a quarter million dollar fine.
Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has been indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of misusing and misappropriating funds from the Department of Agriculture. Farmer also faces a charge of soliciting property in exchange for influencing department actions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington made the announcement this morning. The charges against Farmer include allegations that he took guns, watches, and knives bought as gifts from a convention in 2008.
Each of the five counts against the former UK basketball star carries a penalty of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Any sentence following a conviction would be imposed by a judge under federal court sentencing guidelines.
U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey says Farmer will be arraigned on April 30.
Allegations of spending and hiring abuses during Farmer’s tenure as Agriculture Commissioner prompted his successor, James Comer, to ask for an audit of Farmer’s time at the department. The report released by state auditor Adam Edelen found what he called “a toxic culture of entitlement and self-dealing at the Kentucky taxpayers’ expense.”
Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer could be the subject of a federal grand jury meeting on Friday.
Frankfort defense attorney Guthrie True said he's been informed that the grand jury will look at Farmer. The Executive Branch Ethics Commission charged Farmer last month with 42 administrative ethics violations for allegedly misusing government funds and employees during his eight years in office.