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Friday, January 20, 2012

Richie Farmer Returns More Missing Equipment. OK, This Is Not Funny Anymore!

Richie Farmer delivers more items to Ag Department
Written by Tom Loftus
and Joseph Gerth


FRANKFORT, KY. — Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer this week delivered more than just some missing computer equipment to the Department of Agriculture.

State Auditor Adam Edelen said Friday that Farmer returned items in addition to two laptop computers, a printer and a monitor that had been listed as missing on records that Farmer’s successor as commissioner, James Comer, released last week.

But Edelen declined to identify what else Farmer brought to the agency he had headed for eight years. His second term ended Jan. 2.

Edelen’s office is conducting a special examination of the Farmer-era Department of Agriculture. Comer requested the examination because of lingering questions over purchasing, personnel and management of the department under Farmer.

Because Edelen’s inquiry is continuing, the property Farmer delivered to his former department was turned over by Comer’s staff to the auditor.

Edelen confirmed Friday that he has since turned over some of that material to the Kentucky State Police for secure storage as his examination proceeds.

He also said the return of the additional items is among new developments that will cause his examination to take longer than originally expected.

“The facts are going to dictate the scope and length of this investigation, and the facts are such that I don’t believe we are going to complete the investigation in six weeks to two months like we had previously hoped,” Edelen said.

Holly VonLuehrte, general counsel for Comer’s agriculture department, said she could not discuss the additional items delivered by Farmer or comment on why they are not on the department’s missing property list.

“All we can say is there were other items delivered, and we’ll defer to Auditor Edelen regarding what those items were,” VonLuehrte said.

VonLuehrte said that neither she nor Comer was present when Farmer delivered the items. But she said she believed Farmer returned them some time Tuesday and that he was accompanied by his father, Richard Farmer of Manchester.

Neither Richie nor Richard Farmer returned phone messages Friday.

Last week the Department of Agriculture released lists of missing department property totaling $324,000 in response to Open Records Act requests from the news media. The missing items included computer equipment and other state property that had been assigned to Farmer.

Still missing on the department’s list are two additional laptops and two global-positioning devices that had been issued to Farmer.

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