Oh, the entertainment we denied ourselves by rejecting Ritchie Farmer as our new Lieutenant Governor.
From the Courier:
State Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer hired his girlfriend as a “special assistant” in his department during the waning days of the 2011 gubernatorial campaign, in which he was a candidate for lieutenant governor.
According to the state Personnel Cabinet, Stephanie L. Sandmann was hired as a non-merit employee in the Department of Agriculture, to start work on Oct. 31, and is earning $5,000 a month, equal to $60,000 a year.
Department spokesman Bill Clary said that Farmer, 42, who is going through a divorce, declined to be interviewed on the matter.
Sandmann didn’t return a phone call Thursday afternoon to Farmer’s administrative offices.
But Senate President David Williams, Farmer’s running mate, confirmed Thursday that Sandmann is Farmer’s girlfriend and said he had no idea Farmer had put her on the state’s payroll eight days before the Nov. 8 election. He said he met her while on the campaign trail with Farmer.
“She told me she worked for a gynecologist,” said Williams, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor.
According to her state personnel file, the 38-year-old Sandmann didn’t apply for a specific job but said she was willing to work only in Frankfort.
Non-merit employees aren’t required to pass civil-service tests and can be hired or fired at the discretion of elected officials and their top aides.
The non-merit ranks are long-standing favorite places for elected officials to stash friends, idiot nephews and campaign contributors, although most such appointments are made years, rather than days, before the end of one's term.
Ritchie Farmer is known to be dimwitted, but surely even he knew he was leaving office. Which suggests that there may be something to the rumor that the new repug Ag Commish is going to hire Ritchie as a special assistant himself.
State Rep. Jamie Comer of Tompkinsville was elected agriculture commissioner last week and will take over in January for Farmer, who couldn’t seek a third term because of constitutional limits. Asked if Sandmann would be retained in his administration, Comer said only that his office will handle hiring differently.
“Obviously, I’m not commissioner yet and won’t be until January,” he said. “But I can assure you that changes will be made, and hiring of qualified personnel will be my No. 1 priority.”
Clary said he didn’t know what Sandmann’s duties are in the department and had never met her.
“I don’t even know who you are talking about,” he said when first contacted. “We have 260-something employees. I don’t know them all.”
In a second conversation, however, he confirmed that Sandmann was on the payroll, reiterated that he didn’t know what her duties are and added, “The department doesn’t have anything to say about this.”
When asked if he had seen her at work, Clary said, “I don’t work in the same building. … You have exhausted my knowledge of this subject.”
Farmer’s estranged wife, Rebecca Ann, filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court on April 5 to dissolve the couple’s 13-year marriage. The case is scheduled for trial Tuesday.
That case, which promises to be nasty if not explosive, was postponed from its original pre-election date to two days before Thanksgiving, and has now been postponed again until two days before New Year's.
Sandman is also seeking a divorce.
According to records in Jefferson Circuit Court, she filed for divorce against her husband, Stephen Sandmann, in August. An order finalizing that divorce was entered Oct. 19 but is being challenged.
In the last days of the campaign, Farmer and Sandmann were often seen on the campaign trail together, including election night at the Republican Party celebration at the Marriott Griffin Gate Hotel in Lexington.
When asked if Sandmann was on the clock while attending campaign events around the state, Clary said: “I don’t have anything to say on this subject.”
Sandmann’s application for the Agriculture Department position said her last job was as a receptionist at a Louisville doctor’s office that provides gynecologic and obstetric care.
Before that, she worked as a title clerk for a title insurance company, as a real estate agent, a mortgage processor and a cellular phone saleswoman, according to the application.
Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball star and a high school legend in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, burst onto Kentucky’s political scene in 2003 with his first campaign for agriculture commissioner. He was re-elected in 2007 and was the Republicans’ leading vote getter that year.
But don't worry about us getting bored. Among the seven state elected officials is always at least one determined to embarass the Commonwealth. Taking bets now on which one it will be and how soon the idiocy will hit the papers.