Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. Agriculture Missing $500K in Equipment Inventory Includes More Than 100 Computers

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Ky. Agriculture Missing $500K in Equipment Inventory Includes More Than 100 Computers

Article excerpt

FRANKFORT, Ky. - About $500,000 in state property cannot be accounted for by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, according to a review of inventory records by the Lexington Herald-Leader. The records show more than 100 state computers are missing.

Those include four new laptops that were issued to former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer in 2010.

New Agriculture Commissioner James Comer on Wednesday announced that he had asked the state auditor to thoroughly review the department.

"This is further evidence of the cloud of suspicion that hangs over the Department of Agriculture," Auditor Adam Edelen said Thursday about the records of lost property.

"My office is certainly aware of this part of a much broader and sweeping investigation."

In all, the records list 171 missing items worth about $334,000, the paper reported.

Another 103 items worth $146,000 were supposed to have been given back to the state as surplus.

However, those items do not have disposition numbers that acknowledge they have been returned, and officials are unable to determine whether or not they are missing.

Comer dismissed 16 non-merit employees, including Farmer's girlfriend, Stephanie Sandmann, shortly after taking office. She was hired to a $60,000-a-year job in the Agriculture Department in the waning days of Farmer's unsuccessful campaign as running mate to gubernatorial candidate and Senate President David Williams.

Those 16 former employees turned over all state property not already reported as missing.

Farmer is the only person who has not returned all department- issued equipment, according to the inventory record, said Holly VonLuehrte, general counsel at the Department of Agriculture.

Attempts to contact Farmer on Thursday were unsuccessful. No one answered the door at his Frankfort home, although vehicles were in his driveway. …

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