Kentucky Joe ‘voted’ out of agriculture dept.

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Crittenden’s Rodger Bingham is no longer working for the state Department of Agriculture.

Bingham, known as “Kentucky Joe” from the reality TV show Survivor, was fired from his public relations job with the state by new Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer.

Bingham began working for the agriculture department in June 2004. According to a database of Kentucky state salaries, Bingham was paid $7,032 a month as a full-time non-merit employee. His job duties included talking to school children and scout troops about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and smoking. He also presented checks and made public appearances to promote Kentucky agriculture.

Bingham is a former industrial arts teacher at Grant County High School.

He gained national fame as “Kentucky Joe” in 2001 when he appeared on season two of the TV series Survivor: The Australian Outback.

According to a report in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Bingham was fired without cause. “Please be advised that effective immediately, your services at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture are no longer needed,” the newspaper reported his dismissal letter reads.

Comer took office on Jan. 2 and the next day Bingham received the dismissal letter.

Bingham was one of a dozen non-merit employees terminated by Comer.

Bingham was hired by Ritchie Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball standout, who served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture since 2004.

Prior to his employment with the state, Bingham served as a member of Farmer’s transition team before being named a department spokesman.

Kentucky’s Personnel Board issued a report last week that says Farmer violated state hiring laws when he moved two employees from politically appointed non-merit positions to merit jobs in late 2010; a move designed to protect them from being dismissed after Farmer left office at the end of 2011.

A review is also being conducted by the state auditor of state property that is either missing or cannot be accounted for in the Agriculture Department.

Farmer lost his bid in November 2011 for lieutenant governor. He was on the losing ticket with Republican nominee David Williams. He could not seek re-election as agriculture commissioner because of term limits.