Gifts, other purchases add up | Published 11/23/08

TENS OF THOUSANDS SPENT ON LIQUOR, TICKETS AND TOYS

jhewlett@herald-leader.comNovember 23, 2008 

Steak, bourbon, entertainment: All have been used to win friends for Blue Grass Airport.

Michael Gobb, the airport's executive director, spent tens of thousands of dollars on gifts, entertainment and other purchases from the end of 2005 through March 2008, according to credit card and other records provided to the Herald-Leader by the airport.

Bernard Lovely, chairman of the airport's board of directors, said purchases Gobb made, such as $1,200 at Kansas City Steak Co.; $287 at Harbor Sweets, a Massachusetts candy company; and $750 at Penzeys, a gourmet-spice business, were used for gifts.

Included in Gobb's expenditures for tickets to entertainment events were $1,700 for performances in Vienna and London. Those tickets were used by airport clients, Lovely said. The airport also entertained guests at the Singletary Center and at Lexington Legends games.

In March, Gobb made a $650 contribution to the Washington National Opera. The airport "was planning to host an event with the Washington National Opera to promote its non-stop air service to Washington, D.C.," according to Lovely.

The plan didn't go forward, but there might be other ways to work with the National Opera, he said. In the past, the airport has created prize packages with Metropolitan Opera in New York and Chicago Lyric Opera.

Bourbon is a popular gift for the airport. At Liquor Barn, Gobb bought more than $6,500 worth of gifts and liquor.

"Being bourbon capital of the world, Blue Grass Airport will purchase beverages from Liquor Barn and personalize them with the recipient's name and give it as a thank-you gift to out-of-town guests," Lovely said in an e-mail response to questions.

Other Liquor Barn merchandise is used in gift baskets and for silent auctions. The airport also plays host at events such as Picnic with the Pops and High Hope Steeplechase, where alcohol is served, he said.

The nearly $6,000 that Gobb spent during the same period at toy stores was to keep airport employees and vendors, not clients, happy. Most of the charges were at Hobbytown USA for gifts and door prizes at Christmas parties and fall festivals, said Lovely and Brian Ellestad, the airport's marketing director.

At Best Buy, more than $4,000 was charged on Gobb's airport credit card for items including two television sets, electronic equipment and DVDs. The television sets and electronics were for the administrative offices; the movies for the employee library, according to Lovely.

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