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Ag commissioner asks auditor to examine previous administration

By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email
By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer formally requested that Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen conduct a special examination of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA).

Comer, who was sworn in on January 2, said the audit is necessary to restore morale within the Department and to ensure the integrity of its operations.

"The KDA has some talented career employees and my job is to ensure they have a healthy and financially sound place to work," said Commissioner Comer. "The agriculture community needs to have full confidence in this office so together we can all move forward."

Comer won the office in the November election. He replaced former Ag. Commissioner Richie Farmer, who ran on the ticket with David Williams for the governor's office.

Edelen, a Democrat, and Comer, a Republican, say they're looking beyond party lines to try and make a difference in the largest regulatory agency in the state.

"We're just trying to keep everything on the up and up," Comer explained while taking questions from the podium during a press conference to announce the audit.

"I did speak with members of our congressional delegation, senior staff members and members of the party that are influential," Comer said after getting asked about taking on a member of his own party.

"They all just want me to do the right thing," Comer said.

Comer says the annual budget for the KDA is about $29 million.

Comer and Edelen met this week to discuss details of the examination. The audit will be paid for by the KDA and will cost no more than $15,000.

Comer says his department will cover the $15,000 cost. Edelen jumped in saying his department would cover anything else if the budget for the investigation is exceeded.

"The goal here is better government," said Edelen. "To that end, my staff will conduct this examination professionally and efficiently. We will go where the facts take us."

Although neither would get specific about what findings in the first six days in their respective offices led them to launch the investigation, Comer did report one of two refrigerators purchased under Farmer's watch with state funds has been returned to the KDA.

"Commissioner Farmer ought to welcome the audit if he did nothing wrong," Edelen explained while addressing members of the press. "I am not interested in anything other than the facts."

Edelen said his office would report the examination's findings and recommendations to Commissioner Comer and the public as soon as it is complete.

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