By Leland Conway
So, what’s with this flurry of hiring friends by outgoing Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer? Multiple news sources have reported that Farmer hired his girlfriend for a $5000 per month job, just eight days before the gubernatorial election that Williams/Farmer would lose in a landslide. Mr. Farmer is term limited, and wouldn’t have been able to serve another term as Ag commissioner even if he had wanted to, so he had to know that this wouldn’t pass the smell test.
Farmer has also hired a couple of other friends in the last month or two for positions within his department. Both will make between $1950 and $2500 per month for all of two months. So what gives? Was there work to be done that could only be done by Mr. Farmer’s closest friends in the final two months of his second term?
Grant it, these were appointed positions so legally, Mr. Farmer can do this. But why do it when he has only two months left in office? The next commissioner will get to appoint his own staff, why disrespect someone who won the vote of the people by filling these positions at the last minute when everything is likely to change soon? Wouldn’t a true conservative relish an opportunity to leave some taxpayer money unspent?
I’m not going to venture any farther into the realm of speculation as to why Farmer made these questionable hires – for now we’ll just stick with being upset with the fact that they are indeed questionable. This isn’t the first time his management of tax dollars has come into question. There were questions about the purchase of SUV’s, mileage reporting, big screen TVs and hotel stays during the Kentucky Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament. Richie Farmer has to know that this stinks. It appears to be slap in the face to Kentucky taxpayers. It is either colossal ignorance or willful arrogance.
Does Farmer actually think that he can run for statewide office again after this? Is he even concerned about the appearance of impropriety? Does he think that because he played basketball for the Big Blue that no one cares what he does with taxpayer dollars, or how it looks?
It’s sad, because the people of this state trusted him with public office because of his name. As is always the case with former basketball players, Kentuckians treat them well – even if they weren’t huge stars. If you wore the jersey, it can be your ticket. Do you think it was a coincidence that the Williams/Farmer campaign logo had a basketball in the middle of it? Surely no one actually thought that had anything to do with policy?
For Farmer to display this kind of deliberate superciliousness in front of the taxpayers who gave him a pretty nice post basketball career is downright mean, and it gives me a small sense of relief in retrospect to know that he’s not going to be the Lt. Governor.
Nonetheless, the damage is done. Republicans haven’t held the Governor’s office but once in 30 years. It’s rare in this “conservative Democrat state” for Republicans to hold any statewide office. This isn’t exactly good PR for the party of small government.
I am hopeful that incoming Commissioner James Comer – the only candidate I endorsed, and the only Republican to win – can erase some of this bad mojo. He’ll have to work twice as hard to rebuild the trust of the taxpayer. Maybe he can repair some of the damage done by being wiser with taxpayer dollars and lending more than lip service to cutting the size of government.