Indictment refers to clothes, tickets, strip club purchases

ralessi@herald-leader.comOctober 22, 2009 

Three of the felony theft charges filed Tuesday against former Blue Grass Airport officials appear to refer to a $1,600 purchase of theater tickets, a $1,000 Eddie Bauer shopping spree and a $5,000 night at a strip club.

State Auditor Crit Luallen cited those questionable expenses in a February audit report of the airport, which she referred to law enforcement agencies, including Attorney General Jack Conway's investigators and the FBI.

One charge of the 15-count indictment against former Blue Grass Airport managers alleges that former Executive Director Michael A. Gobb instructed Amy Caudill, the airport's manger of marketing and community relations, "to obtain property for which ... Gobb was not entitled" between July and August 2006.

Luallen's audit report said Gobb requested that $1,606 worth of theater tickets be "charged on the marketing budget" on Aug 18, 2006. The tickets were for six plays in Cincinnati: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Twelve Angry Men, All Shook Up, Light in the Piazza, Spelling Bee and Disney's The Lion King. All were purchased through the Cincinnati Arts Association, for which Gobb received a $550 annual membership paid by the airport.

Gobb also used the airport credit card number of John Coon, the then-director of operations, on Nov. 18, 2008, to order $1,046 worth of clothes from Eddie Bauer, according to the state audit.

The order included several sapphire down jackets, matching vests, a black scarf, men's black boots — size 10.5 — and a black earband, according to the receipt.

On Coon's airport credit card statement, someone scribbled "uniforms" and Gobb's initials were next to the purchase.

One count in the indictment appears to refer to that purchase. It says Gobb committed theft from November 2008 through December 2008 by "placing a charge on John Coon's airport credit card."

A third count refers to the a 2004 trip to a Texas strip club called the Cabaret Royale, owned by Millenium Restaurants.

Gobb, Coon and John P. Slone, the former director of planning and development, went to the strip club. The men charged a total of $5,080 to the airport. Slone and Coon have since paid back the airport for more than half of that cost.

The rest of the charges — including six counts of felony theft against John Rhodes, the former director of administration and finance — were more general and alluded to theft of products or services worth more than $500.

The General Assembly last spring amended the theft law so that anything worth at least $500 is a Class D felony.

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