The case of the stolen Marriott Rewards points

Posted by: Jason

Have you ever heard of Richie Farmer? Neither had I until I read some articles out of Kentucky about his alleged abuse of power as the Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of Kentucky. Richie was a born and raised in Kentucky and played for the Kentucky Wildcats from 1988 to 1992. His jersey was retired after his college career and he eventually ended up being elected as the Commissioner of Agriculture in 2003.

A recent audit was performed in conjunction with his time as the Commissioner of Agriculture which found some pretty heinous abuses of power:

- Purchased rifles to give to staff members and kept a bunch for himself
- Reserved hotel rooms in the name of employees that was then used for his family members
- Had state workers construct a basketball court at his house
- Had an employee drive him to go hunting where Richie shot a deer from the car and made the employee field dress it for him
- Stole a VCR(??) from his office
- Had state workers mow his yard, chauffeur his dog, move a gun safe to his basement.
- Purchased a couple of 60 inch TVs for his office and a conference room so that he could watch March Madness and expedited the wall brackets costing $60 so it could be mounted before the tournament
- Lastly, Richie is accused of earning 55,000 Marriott Rewards points in conjunction with a 2008 convention held for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture at the Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington.

The last point amuses me. There is a list of pretty blatant abuses of power, but is earning Marriott Rewards points for a convention really against the Kentucky state law? Shouldn’t that be a benefit to the employee? The company I work for allows us to accumulate our own hotel points and airline miles. The assumption is that we are using the lowest priced airline and not picking flights based on airline loyalty. In turn, the company allows us to accumulate points and miles. Luckily, living in a Delta hub, Delta is usually the lowest price option flying internationally.

The moral of the story is, don’t shoot animals from your state vehicle, don’t have state workers build a basketball court, and lastly don’t you dare steal Marriott Rewards points.

  • Oliver said,

    Does your boss earn points for your hotel stays? Seems the good Mr. farmer arranged for points for a big convention bill to be added to his personal account. I think that’s a bit different from you or I earning miles or points for our own business travel.

  • MJM said,

    Could be that points for your own stay would not be a problem but it sounds like getting the points for setting up a meeting, which meeting planners can earn, could violate state conflict of interest laws against personally benefitting from a State contract you are responsible for as a government official. I don’t know the law in KY but I think that may be the difference.

  • Mwwalk said,

    I had a very similar conversation with my adviser and mother who both work for the state of Oklahoma. Apparently, it is against policy for state workers to collect airline miles and use them for anything other than government travel. But there is no way to enforce it and they don’t mention hotel points. Weird

  • DaninSTL said,

    Funny but sad story. Maybe he’ll get a 1099 for the points. Maybe he could redeem those points for a DVD player so he won’t be stuck watching his home camcorder VHS movies of those hunting trips. He can get the Toshiba blu-ray player for 26,000 points at Marriott rewards. What a deal!

  • jason said,

    @dan – very good point!

  • Point Hoarder said,

    Government is different. You technically any points earned belong to the taxpayers. I’m not allowed to earn points at the places I work because it would be an ethical violation.

  • PlowJockey said,

    Jason, my employer is like yours. But “lowest airfare” can be gamed based on departure time & day. How would you prevent abuse if your incentive pay were based on lowering employee airfare costs? One way would be to require use of company credit cards and contracted travel agents for expenses to be reimbursed. A more blunt instrument if you’re a state or federal government is to force the points to be deposited into some black hole government account by force of law. Or just forbid using personal FF accounts. That works out juuuuuuuuuust greeeeeeeeeeeat, as Mr. Farmer’s case shows.

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