Gov. Blunt puts state ag official on paid administrative leave

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From staff and wire reports

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State agriculture director Fred Ferrell, a Charleston-area farmer, has been placed on paid administrative leave because of a personnel matter, Gov. Matt Blunt's administration said Monday.

Ferrell has been off the job since May 5, although his absence had not been publicized.

Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson referred questions to Kurt Schaefer, the general counsel and deputy director for the Department of Natural Resources. Schaefer said he was assigned as special counsel for the matter because the Agriculture Department doesn't have a general counsel. But Schaefer said he could not elaborate on why Ferrell is on indefinite leave.

Ferrell did return a telephone message left Monday at his home. He has served as agriculture director since Blunt became governor last year. Ferrell is the owner of Ferrell Farms, a corn, wheat, soybean and cattle operation he founded with his father which has been operated by his son, Britton Ferrell, since the older Ferrell took the state agriculture post.

The farm has about 150 cows and grows crops on 3,000 acres.

Ferrell is also the owner and CEO of Mid-Valley Irrigation Inc., which provides field irrigation services. The company is based in Charleston and has offices in Kennett, Mo., and Dyersburg, Tenn.

Deputy director Matt Boatright is serving as the department's acting director in Ferrell's absence, Schaefer said.

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