WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | News

Comer initiated Farmer investigation, insists changes have been made

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The investigation of Richie Farmer for fraud and violations throughout his eight years as Agriculture Commissioner began on the request of the current Agriculture Commissioner: James Comer.

Within days of taking office in January 2012, Comer asked the state auditor to look into Richie Farmer's spending habits.

Comer spoke to WKYT's Tim Johnston about the audit and why he saw it was necessary.

He spoke of taking over in a "cloud of suspicion" -- and that from day on, he says his focus has been on transparency and moving forward.

"It's an unfortunate situation," he said.

According to Comer, things were a bit rocky before he ever took his seat as Kentucky's Agriculture Commissioner.

"I can't account for what he did as Ag Commissioner," Comer told us. "I can't defend what he did."

Uncovering Farmer's misdeeds all started with the transition team.

"They met with many of the former employees and many of the current employees of the Department of Agriculture," Comer said, describing the team's approach. "They raised some very serious concerns."

So serious, he called for an audit.

"Every bit of information they've requested, we've handed over," he said.

Comer says under Farmer's administration, employees were not held accountable. He called for swift action to fix that.

Of employees who were found to have violated the rules, he said, "We terminated most of those employees within the first 24 hours of my assuming this office."

Since he took office, he says he has replaced the management staff and created safeguards to avoid "repeating the same wrongdoings of the previous administration."

While some may think this was purely a political attack on a very popular Kentucky face, Comer says that couldn't be further from the truth. "I think that's a ridiculous assertion," he said. "I don't think anything political is behind the grand jury."

And his office keeps moving along..

"Everything we do in the Department of Agriculture is focused on doing what we can to help agriculture, not worrying about what happened during the Richie Farmer administration."

While some may find this indictment distracting, Comer insists this has not and will not be a distraction to his office.


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