One of the audit findings revealed that a lavish conference for fellow agriculture commissioners, which was supposed to be paid for privately, actually cost Kentucky taxpayers more than $96,000.
Other findings in the 187-page audit, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, included:
"■ State employees reportedly performed work at Farmer's house on state time, including constructing a basketball court and moving a gun safe from his garage to his basement.
"■ Employees also drove Farmer on shopping and hunting trips. In one instance, Farmer reportedly called a merit employee who was attending a training course at a local university and directed him to drive him to an outdoor sportsman's store in Indiana. In another, he reportedly directed an employee to drive him to hunt. The former commissioner reportedly shot a deer from his state-issued vehicle and directed the employee to bag it for him.
"■ In 2007 and 2011, Farmer reportedly directed a staff member to fill Christmas baskets with items purchased by the department and donated by Kentucky Proud (an agricultural marketing venture) vendors for promotional purposes, then apparently gifted the baskets to family.
"■ Farmer directed staff to purchase two small refrigerators with department funds. The former commissioner previously returned one of the $179 refrigerators to the department. His former spouse told auditors that she used the second refrigerator at her workplace and has since turned it over to the auditor's office.
"■ Farmer took for his personal use four laptops that had been intended to replace the computers of four staff members. He returned three laptops and related equipment in January. Auditors discovered the laptop hard drives had been wiped in an uncharacteristically aggressive manner. One laptop and its accessories, plus another laptop that had been assigned to the former commissioner, remain unaccounted for.
"■ During his eight-year tenure, Farmer didn't report any gifts to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Gifts worth more than $200 were required to be reported. The exam found several gifts worth more than $200 to the commissioner, including $900 worth of free concrete from a local vendor to construct a basketball court."
It's too bad for the state and even for Farmer that some employee didn't blow any whistles on the boss for his spending and behavior. If Farmer's first couple instances of abuse of office had been reported, he could have gotten away with an apology, and from then on, colored between the lines. Instead, the smoldering crisis was allowed to continue unchecked, and Farmer became more emboldened because he kept getting away with everything. Now it looks like Farmer will be paying back the state and probably the IRS. Good for new commissioner Comer for fumigating the office.