In a state rife with systemic corruption, Richie Farmer is the best Adam Edelen can do?
I’ll give credit to Edelen, our pretty boy/ intellectually challenged aspiring gubernatorial candidate: He picked the right patsy on which to build his campaign cred.
The Richie Farmer saga is a uniquely Kentucky story. Farmer was a star basketball player from Manchester in Clay County, Eastern Kentucky, where median household income is $15,923, and where 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Farmer had a pretty good career playing basketball for the University of Kentucky, where he was a fan favorite largely because he’s white.
Thanks to his beloved Wildcat player status, Richie got hisself elected agriculture commissioner and proceeded to wallow unapologetically in the muck of Kentucky spoils-system politics. Which got him investigated by Kentucky auditor Edelen.
According to Edelen’s findings, Richie has a thing for rifles and shootin’ deer out of the cab of his truck. (At 43, Richie’s probably too out of shape to actually go into the woods after these vicious critters, though his staff very considerately built him a basketball court in his backyard.)
But if you total up all the guns, TVs, little tiny refrigerators, girlfriend paychecks, travel and unneeded trucks ol’ Richie bought with taxpayers’ money and didn’t want to reimburse/return, you come up with a few thousand dollars in spoils. Most of which Farmer has reimbursed or returned.
Just one of the many outrages from Edelen’s audit report released this week: The former commissioner used the [hotel] rooms for his family members at a cost of $4,257 to taxpayers.
Four. Thousand. Dollars. Never before in the history of Kentucky, Adam! Unprecedented.
Except for damn near every Kentucky politician since Isaac Shelby.
Richie’s shenanigans have our crusading Kentucky Auditor absolutely over the moon with righteous indignation.
In releasing his audit of the Farmer years at Ag, Edelen’s most sanctimonious quote is,”The law makes no distinction between icons and the rest of us, and neither do I.”
Gag me. And you are talking about Kentucky, right Adam?
The two Kentucky laws icon Farmer really violated were, No. 1, being a moron, and No. 2, being a Republican.
Now, let’s look at Harold Workman. Not much of an athlete, Workman worked his way through Machiavelli State U. He became the most powerful person in Kentucky because of his supporters in the agriculture industry. How’s that for mirror symmetry?
(To his everlasting credit, Gov. Steve Beshear – Workman’s nominal boss, at least on paper – tried and failed to fire Workman. What does that tell you?)
But there’s growing evidence that Workman may have overplayed his hand.
In an unnoticed suit filed April 27 in Jefferson Circuit Court against the Kentucky State Fair Board by Ted Nicholson, who used to be its general manager for KFC Yum! Center, Nicholson lays out the story on Workman, who’s been in his job for 20 years.
• “That from the beginning of his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff was frustrated by abuse of official authority, mismanagement and waste of taxpayer funds committed by his employer. Specifically Fair Board President and CEO Harold Workman had put in place an internal structure which essentially neutered Mr. Nicholson and stripped him of any financial, guest services, marketing or sales oversight whatsoever of the Yum! Center.” (This is the guy who was supposed to be running the arena.)
• In the suit, which only gives one side of the story, Nicholson goes on to lay out over five pages how he was allowed to hire only two of 40 Yum! Center employees, “the remaining handpicked by Mr. Workman and many of these were personal friends of Mr. Workman and/or woefully unqualified for their respective positions.”
• Nicholson’s suit claims the arena was overstaffed for some events and paid way more than it should have to ancillary staff.
• When Nicholson complained about all the waste and mismanagement, Workman assured him everything would be fine.
But everything wasn’t fine.
After Nicholson told an auditor brought in by the Louisville Arena Authority what was going on, Workman summarily fired him without cause.
Things also aren’t going so swell for taxpayers, either. If KFC Yum! Arena doesn’t stay booked out, the city of Louisville is on the hook 30 years for any shortfalls from a $570 million bond issue.
The arena was supposed to turn a profit, but shocker of shockers, it costs $9.2 million to operate each year instead of the projected $5 million.
This is more than an annoyance.
Ask the good people of Kansas City how much their failed Kansas City Power & Light downtown entertainment development costs them in city services cut to pay for the Power & Light bond issue. And ask taxpayers in Jefferson County, Alabama what happens when a county goes broke.
Edelen can’t say no one has ever told him anything about this.
In “Workman’s Company,” top-notch LEO reporter Joe Sonka documents how Workman manipulated the system to turn all his fair board friends and staffers into incredibly well paid people during the past decade.
They include Drew Martin, son of Andrew “Skipper” Martin, a prominent Frankfort lobbyist and political powerbroker. Skipper Martin is former executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party and was former Gov. Paul Patton’s chief of staff.
In a state with rampant state government mismanagement – from Beshear’s botched Medicaid managed -care fiasco to the Fair Board machinations – the best Adam Edelen can do is Richie Farmer.
Six rifles and a girlfriend on the payroll versus situations that could literally bankrupt the state or the city.
Why did Edelen seize on Richie Farmer?
Because of the media.
The CJ and the Herald-Leader know they can sell newspapers with stories about a basketball hero gone bad. So Edelen and Attorney General Jack Conway will milk the Farmer story as along as they can, knowing it will keep them in the headlines for years.
On stuff like Medicaid managed care, the reporters would have to bring in someone to explain it to them, and you don’t sell newspapers with complicated stories about doctors not getting paid and poor people not getting their health care covered by Uncle Sugar.
(A personal note to Richie: I’m most disappointed in that you tried to steal field grade guns. To quote my friend Jimmy Wheatley, if I’m going to steal – and I’m not – I’m going to go big.
Plastic stock, field-grade Winchester 770s? I think not.
Next time – and I guarantee you there will be a next time – uphold the dignity of your office and order Purdey matched shotguns. Custom fitted, with the gold receivers, about $100,000 for the set. Then, go after something a little more challenging than Bambi on the side of the road. Maybe wild boar down in Tennessee, among the most dangerous game on earth. And when you do, Richie, get your fat ass out of the truck.)