By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer misused state resources to further his personal and political agendas prior to 2008, federal prosecutors allege in court documents filed late Friday.
Prosecutors said Farmer, who was agriculture commissioner from 2004 to 2011, was only charged with alleged improprieties from 2008 to 2011 because a five-year statute of limitations prohibits them from pursuing alleged wrongdoing before that time.
Still, prosecutors said they plan to introduce evidence about Farmer’s conduct prior to 2008 during trial to bolster their argument that Farmer had an “unwarranted sense of entitlement.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Taylor said prosecutors plan to show that Farmer improperly influenced the hiring, promoting and rewarding of more employees than the three who are mentioned in an April indictment of Farmer.
Testimony and evidence also will show that Farmer, a former beloved University of Kentucky basketball player and once rising star in the Republican Party, tried to influence private vendors to provide goods and services to him or the department.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Franklin Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd said Monday he plans to make a ruling as soon as possible on Gov. Steve Beshear’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.
Tea Party activist David Adams filed a lawsuit against the exchange earlier this year, claiming that Beshear did not receive “proper approval” from the Kentucky General Assembly to create the exchange. He is seeking an injunction against Beshear’s executive order until the Democratic governor receives legislative approval.
Beshear issued an executive order last July to establish the online marketplace without the input of state lawmakers. The exchange will offer health insurance plans for Kentuckians beginning Jan. 1, as called for by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Beshear said last week that the exchange will help 332,000 Kentuckians in need of health care coverage. The exchange will be financed entirely with federal dollars until Jan. 1, 2015, after which Beshear has said it will be wholly financed with revenue it generates.
After a hearing Monday in Franklin Circuit Court on the exchange lawsuit, Adams said he filed another lawsuit Monday challenging Beshear’s recent decision to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls under the federal health law. Adams was surrounded by about 25 Tea Party supporters as he announced the lawsuit.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow is to retire from her $137,865-a-year state post May 31, Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday.
“Secretary Sparrow has done a fantastic job of continuing to improve and develop Kentucky’s tourism through some very challenging times,” Beshear said in a news release, mentioning the recently announced 4.4 percent growth last year in tourism’s economic impact to the state.
“I want to thank her for her steady leadership and her lifelong contributions to Kentucky’s travel and hospitality industry, which have played an important role in maintaining tourism as a major economic force for Kentucky.”
Beshear said he will name a replacement soon.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Bill Garmer said Friday he is considering running for the U.S. Senate next year if Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes declines to enter the race against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
“A lot of people have talked to me about the race,” said Garmer, a Lexington lawyer, in a telephone interview. “But Alison is the center of discussion. In my mind, if she wants the nomination, she has my support. She is one of the bright stars in the Democratic party and she wants to serve Kentucky. I would be the first in line to support her.”
Asked if he would consider running if Grimes decides not to run, Garmer said, “that sounds like a lawyer’s question but that would be fair.”
Grimes said April 23 that she is pondering whether to run for the U.S. Senate next year against McConnell. She said she would “take the time to reflect with my family, my supporters on how I can best continue to serve the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – Veteran political consultant Jim Cauley is working for the Democratic campaign of James L. Kay II in the special state House 56th District race in Central Kentucky.
Kay, a Woodford County attorney, confirmed Wednesday that Cauley, a former chief of staff for Gov. Steve Beshear, is his campaign consultant in the race.
That drew an immediate response from state Republican Party Chairman Steve Robertson, who noted that Cauley was campaign manager for President Barack Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign in Illinois.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The former longtime state director for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is retiring from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture a little more than a month after being appointed to one of the department’s top jobs, agriculture officials said Thursday.
Larry Cox began working for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer last summer and was promoted to deputy commissioner in April.
As director of Consumer and Environmental Protection, Cox made $80,000 a year and helped oversee the shuttering of a more than $3.1 million fuel testing lab that began under former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer. The department has since contracted with a private laboratory for gas testing and hopes to save taxpayers $600,000 a year by closing the lab.
Comer has asked the Finance and Administration Cabinet to auction off more than $3.1 million in lab equipment.
After Cox completed the shut down of the laboratory, he decided to return to retirement, according to a news release. Agriculture officials said Thursday that Cox had always planned to return to retirement and his Hart County farming operation. His last day will be June 15.
“Comment on Kentucky” and “Kentucky Tonight” will discuss political news in the state on their next shows on the Kentucky Educational Television network.
Joining host Ferrell Wellman on this weekend’s “Comment” will be three journalists — Bill Estep, Somerset bureau reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader; Kenny Colston, Frankfort bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio; and Don Wilkins, editorial page editor for The Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro.
The show will air live a 8 p.m. Friday on KET.
On the Monday, May 20, edition of “Kentucky Tonight” at 8 p.m. on KET and at www.ket.org/live, host Bill Goodman and guests will discuss the 2014 elections.
Scheduled guests are Steve Robertson, chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky; Jonathan Miller, former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party; Ellen Williams, former chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky; and Bill Garmer, former chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Viewers with questions and comments may send email to email@example.com or use the message form at ket.org/kytonight. Viewers may also submit questions and comments on Twitter @BillKET, #kytonight, or on Kentucky Educational Television’s Facebook page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.
“Kentucky Tonight” programs are archived online, made available via podcast, and rebroadcast on KET and KET KY. Archived programs, information about podcasts, and broadcast schedules are available at ket.org/kytonight.
“Kentucky Tonight” is a weekly KET production, produced by Deidre Clark. Goodman is host and managing editor.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — An internal investigation into one of Kentucky’s largest regional child protection and social services office should conclude in coming weeks, said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes.
Haynes told the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board last week that she asked the cabinet’s Office of Inspector General to look at the Jefferson County Department for Community Based Services, which handles child and adult protection and other programs, such as food stamps.
Haynes declined to say what the Office of Inspector General was investigating. She said the Office of Inspector General is also investigating another regional office in Kentucky but declined to name it.
Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said more details about the investigations will be released when the reports are final, which Haynes said she hopes happens in the next several weeks.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A federal judge has rescheduled the trial of former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer to Oct. 22.
Attorneys for Farmer had asked to delay the original July 2 trial date to February 2014 because of the complexity of the case and scheduling conflicts. Federal prosecutors argued in court documents that a seven month delay was too long and asked for a fall trial date. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
In his Wednesday order, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove said Farmer’s lawyers will need additional time to prepare for trial but not until February.
FRANKFORT — The cities of Maysville and Bardstown have joined the list of official Kentucky Cultural Districts, bringing the total number of state-certified communities to six.
“Kentucky Cultural Districts are proven cultural destinations for visitors and provide a high quality of life for residents,” First lady Jane Beshear said Tuesday in making the announcement abouit Maysville and Bardstown. “Arts and culture in these communities play a vital role in creative and economic development, not only for the cities but for the entire Commonwealth.”
The Kentucky Cultural District Certification Program is an initiative of the Kentucky Arts Council.