Ethics Commission: Farmer's plea deal 'the largest they've seen'

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, Richie Farmer, been accused of corruption and using his state funds inappropriately during his two terms in office. Now the investigation is a step closer to being resolved, after the Executive Branch Ethics Commission agreed to the terms of Farmer's plea agreement on Monday. The last piece is left to a federal judge to sign off on that deal, which could happen Friday, September 13th.

"We can't have state officials or anyone in the government misuse their positions like he did. He's being held accountable for his eight years and what his misconduct in that time," stated John Steffen, Executive Director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

In a statement released by his lawyer last week, Farmer said he deeply regrets the pain he's caused his family and the embarrassment he's caused Kentucky. Farmer is facing state and federal charges, along with 42 counts of ethical violations, but is now offering a deal that would put him in prison for nearly two years and pay out a penalty of $120,500 dollars. The Ethics Commission said this will be the largest penalty they've ever assessed, eclipsing the previous mark of $20,000 dollars.

"Yes, both in the number of counts and the amount of the penalty will be the largest we've ever seen with this agency," answered Steffen, "which is appropriate because it is by far the worst misconduct by a public servant we've ever seen."

After the Ethics Commission's meeting Steffen said that Farmer is admitting to all of the conduct that was charged in the first order in March. However, Farmer wasn't alone as the Ethics Commission also took a look into Farmer's sister, Rhonda Monroe, who worked in the state election office and tipped her brother off about a state audit.

Steffen added, "She admitted to all three violations and has agreed to pay a $6,000 penalty for her actions."

Farmer's attorney said in a press release, that Farmer has agreed to the plea in part to stop any further charges against his sister.

Though the Ethics Commission accepted the agreement, they were careful to say that it doesn't make it final. Steffen said if the judge does not approve Farmer's plea deal, then the Commission's agreement with Farmer will fall through.

His trial was set for October 22nd, and he could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison if he had been convicted.

Farmer, who played on a University of Kentucky team dubbed "The Unforgettables." Farmer served the Department of Agriculture from 2004 through 2011.

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