The Urban County Council on Tuesday voted to support J. Robert Owens, chairman of the Blue Grass Airport board, for a second term on the board.
Mayor Jim Newberry nominated Owens, saying he had done an "outstanding job of addressing some difficult problems" that no one could "justify, tolerate or condone."
The airport's executive director resigned in January 2009 amid a spending scandal that has led to forced resignations and criminal indictments of several former airport officials.
Owens, a certified public accountant, was treasurer of the airport board for one year. After the scandal broke, Owens was elected chairman to succeed Bernard Lovely whose term ended.
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Last month, the board re-elected Owens as chairman, contingent on his being re-nominated by Newberry and approved by council.
The council vote was 12 in favor of Owens, three opposed. Voting "no" were Vice Mayor Jim Gray and council members Diane Lawless and Doug Martin.
Gray indicated it was tough personal decision not to support Owens, a longtime friend and his campaign treasurer in 2002 when Gray ran for mayor.
"Sometimes you can get lucky and can vote with your head and your heart," Gray said. "This time I've got to vote with my head."
"We need a fresh start, fresh points of view and a clean slate" on the airport board, said Gray, a mayoral candidate running against Newberry.
Lawless said she also felt the airport board needed "a fresh start."
But Newberry gave council members a letter from Brian Lykins of the state auditor's office in which Lykins praised Owens' work in helping the airport clean up its spending policies.
Council members Cheryl Feigel and George Myers had indicated to Newberry they were not strong supporters of Owens. In response, Newberry arranged for them to meet with the airport board chairman. Both ended up voting for his re-appointment.
Feigel said the letter from the auditor's office was key to her changing her mind.
After the meeting, Owens said the No. 1 objective of the airport board is to "work hard to restore trust and integrity of the airport with the community."
The No. 2 objective, he said, is to keep on schedule 13 construction projects totalling $66 million. Work is due to be completed in time for the World Equestrian Games in September.
Newberry said he expected criticism for nominating Owens. "But there are times when it is important for whoever is serving as mayor to make tough decisions that are in the long term best interest of the community," he said.