Ex-official at Blue Grass Airport gets shock probation

Judge grants shock probation

jhewlett@herald-leader.comOctober 13, 2011 

Former Blue Grass Airport official John Slone, jailed since June for violating the terms of his conditional discharge on a theft-related conviction in an airport spending scandal, has been granted shock probation.

Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine granted Slone shock probation during a court hearing Wednesday. She placed Slone on probation for 18 months.

"Any violation will bring you back before this court," Goodwine told Slone, who sat before her wearing a Fayette County jail jumpsuit.

On June 24, Goodwine ordered Slone, 53, to serve 12 months in jail because he'd been arrested and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Bartholomew County, Ind. Slone was arrested in November and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor in May.

He had violated the only condition of a conditional discharge Goodwine granted him in June 2010 — that he stay out of trouble with the law for two years.

"As you can imagine, I wasn't very happy about that," Goodwine said Wednesday, adding that neither was the community. "I don't think that requirement was too stern."

In June 2010, Goodwine sentenced Slone to 12 months in jail then gave him a conditional discharge after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception, a misdemeanor, for his role in a 2004 Dallas strip club visit that cost the airport more than $5,000.

On Wednesday, Goodwine told Slone that choices have consequences and that she hoped he had learned from his experience.

"You cost yourself and your family a lot because of your choice to drink," Goodwine said. "There were some who did not believe that I would send you to jail when you appeared before me in June."

Slone told the judge one important lesson he had learned was that he must take into consideration the consequences of any decision he makes.

The conditions of Slone's 18-month probation include getting a job and being subject to random alcohol and drug testing. Slone also is required to perform 180 hours of community service, which Goodwine said she preferred to be in the area of alcohol counseling. Slone will be evaluated first to determine whether he needs alcohol and drug abuse treatment and education.

Bill Moore, Slone's attorney, said Slone lost his job as an aviation project director for RW Armstrong in Evansville, Ind., due to a work-force adjustment, and Slone is trying to sell his house in Versailles. His license to practice engineering has been suspended because of his legal troubles, Moore said.

Slone, a former director of planning and development at Blue Grass Airport, was forced out of that job in early 2009 after a scandal broke involving the expenditure of airport funds.

Slone and the airport's former executive director, Michael Gobb; former operations director John Coon; and former administration and finance director John Rhodes, were indicted on theft-related charges by a Fayette County grand jury in October 2009 after law enforcement agencies spent more than nine months investigating the spending of airport money.

The Herald-Leader reported earlier in 2009 that the top five leaders of the airport, including those who were indicted, spent more than $530,000 on travel, meals, entertainment and other expenses from 2006 through 2008. A February 2009 report by the state auditor's office detailed more than $500,000 in undocumented or questionable expenditures made by seven top airport officials, including Gobb, Coon, Rhodes and Slone, during the three-year period.

Slone was indicted on one charge of felony theft by deception. Gobb was indicted on nine counts of felony theft by deception. Rhodes was indicted on six counts of felony theft by deception. And Coon was indicted on one count of felony theft by deception. All accepted plea deals, with Gobb pleading guilty to two counts of felony theft by deception; Rhodes pleading guilty to one count of felony theft by deception; and Slone and Coon pleading guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit theft by deception, a misdemeanor. All of the men received conditional discharges or probation instead of prison time.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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