Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer was the only constitutional officer in Kentucky not to file an annual financial disclosure form, due in April, with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission covering his last year in office.
State Auditor Adam Edelen released a blistering audit of the Department of Agriculture during Farmer’s tenure on Monday and found the former commissioner, among other things, had accepted gifts exceeding $200.
That included such items as $900 in concrete for a basketball court at his marital home, a wooden hat and stand worth $1,360 and various gifts, including scoped Remington rifles each worth $449.
Farmer failed to disclose those gifts to the ethics panel, the audit said. Constitutional officers must file financial disclosure forms annually detailing yearly income sources that exceed $1,000 and non-family gifts worth more than $200.
Katie Gabhart, general counsel for the commission, declined to speak specifically about matters involving Farmer but said generally the commission can investigate possible ethics violations that are referred to the panel.
The commission can issue a public reprimand or fine up to $5,000 for violators, she said.
Any official who failed to file the 2011 disclosure form, due April 16, has received a letter from the commission, Gabhart said. The commission’s next meeting is May 14.
Guthrie True, Farmer’s attorney, said the matter was “nothing more than an oversight.”
“As I’m sure everybody can appreciate, he’s had a lot going on of late, and quite frankly, it’s just an oversight,” True said. “I’m confident we’ll get that corrected in due time.”
True, speaking to reporters after the audit’s release Monday, called the audit “political and self-serving.” He said the former University of Kentucky basketball player had been offered gifts based on his popularity on the court, not because of his state office.
“Richie Farmer has been receiving gifts that you and I might not receive, whether it be sweat suits or tennis shoes or running shoes or whatever, for years like every other University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Morehead State athletes,” True told reporters Monday.
“… They’re celebrities. They’re somewhat idols, in many respects.”
Still, True said he would address any ethics issues that may arise from the audit. Edelen forwarded his report to the ethics commission and other agencies.
“If there are ethics issues out there, we will deal with ethics issues when they come up,” he said Monday.