TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

May 21, 2013

3 of Farmer’s ag dept. staff admit to ethics violation

London man agrees to $6,500 civil penalty


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN —

By Ronnie Ellis, CNHI News Service

Three former employees of Richie Farmer’s agriculture department have agreed to settlements with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, accepting reprimands and fines.

Bruce Harper, Chris Parsons and George “Doug” Begley admitted to ethics violations while employed at the Department of Agriculture during Farmer’s tenure.

In March, the three were charged with violations at the same time the commission charged Farmer with 42 violations. Farmer was subsequently indicted by the federal government on four counts of misappropriating public funds.

The Ethics Commission also charged former employees William E. Mobley, Steven Mobley and Stephanie Sandman, Farmer’s girlfriend, with violations as well as alleging Farmer’s sister, Rhonda Monroe, an employee of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance with helping Farmer make false campaign expense claims.

Commission Executive Director John Steffen said Monday there has been no resolution of the charges against Farmer, Monroe or the others.

But the commission approved the three settlement agreements with Harper, Parsons and Begley, he said.

In his settlement Harper, of Harrodsburg, admitted that while he was employed as Director of Outreach and Development at the department he used his position to solicit donations for a convention of Departments of Agriculture which Kentucky hosted in Lexington in 2008 from entities which did business with the department and that he interfered in the enforcement and penalty procedures of the Office of the State Veterinarian.

In the latter charge, Harper allegedly instructed a department employee to hold a $3,000 penalty check submitted by a grain dealer until the dealer could pick up the check.

Steffen said Harper agreed to pay a $4,500 civil penalty, accept a public reprimand for his actions and to waive his right to appeal.

Begley, of London, admitted to claiming work time on time sheets for time he failed to perform his duties of inspecting amusement rides; that he used a state vehicle for private business activities; and for attempting to use his official position to avoid a citation by the Department of Forestry for logging activities by his private business.

Begley agreed to a $6,500 civil penalty, accept a public reprimand and waived his right to appeal.

Parsons, of Mount Vernon, admitted he claimed work time on time sheets for time he was supposed to spend performing inspections at stockyards while “consistently failing to appear at these stockyards” and collecting pay for falsely reported time on time sheets, according to Steffen.

When he was subsequently assigned to work in Frankfort, according to the commission, Begley failed to report for work but claimed work time on time sheets while not performing work and for using his state-issued fuel card to purchase fuel on six occasions during those periods of time when he did not report for work, according to Steffen.

Parsons agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty, accepted a public reprimand and waived any right to appeal.

Meanwhile, Farmer’s federal trial is scheduled for October. The indictment alleges Farmer, 43, took for personal use guns, knives, watches and gift cards which were purchased for the 2008 convention of agriculture departments; directed department staff to reserve hotel rooms at the time of the State Fair in their names, rooms which were then used by Farmer’s family members.

He is also charged with creating non-merit jobs for “close associates” who performed little or unnecessary work and used KDA staff to perform personal chores and errands.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and fines of up to $250,000. The government is also asking for restitution of $450,000.