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New member finally joins airport board

Leslie K. Kimbrough, a real estate investment businessman, is the newest member of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Airport Board, which oversees Blue Grass Airport.

He replaces Robert Dawson.

Kimbrough's appointment to the board became effective in late August, not long after David Stevens, a former urban county councilman and airport board member, withdrew from consideration.

Stevens was the mayor's representative on the airport board while he was on the council. After his council term, and thus his airport board appointment, ended at the end of 2008, he was tapped by Mayor Jim Newberry to fill the airport board spot that had been held by Dawson.

But in January, the urban county council, which ratifies the mayor's airport board nominations, tabled new appointments to the board until after the state auditor's office completed an audit of the airport.

State Auditor Crit Luallen's office reported in late February that seven top airport officials had more than $500,000 in questionable or unsupported expenses from Jan. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2008. The audit began after the Herald-Leader published a series of articles about the spending of airport money in November. Four top airport executives, including executive director Michael Gobb, resigned from their jobs in January. A criminal investigation is ongoing.

After the audit report in February, the council asked the state auditor to provide recommendations for community boards, and those weren't received until sometime later. The council concerned itself with other matters and took a break from early July to mid-August.

Meanwhile, Dawson, whose term on the airport board expired Jan. 1, was automatically reappointed to another four-year term because of a state law. Under the law, reappointment is automatic if a replacement appointment has not been made within 60 days after a term has expired. But Dawson didn't want to stay on the airport board, according to Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

Stevens, the mayor's choice as Dawson's replacement, continued to attend the monthly airport board meetings, sitting at the boardroom table but not voting on matters that came before the board. But by late summer, he no longer wanted to be on the airport board, either.

"I decided that I probably didn't want to be on that board any more," Stevens said recently. He said he withdrew from the nomination because he found he didn't have as much time as he thought he would have to devote to the board and not because of the spending scandal.

"I don't feel like I was implicated in it or responsible for it. I feel kind of dumb not to be able to perceive what was going on, but I wasn't the only one," he said.

Some council members had called for a reconstitution of the airport board in the wake of the spending scandal, but Stevens said he thought he had enough votes on the council to return to the board.

Kimbrough, who attended his first airport board meeting Sept. 16, owns and operates Kimbrough & Associates LLC, a real estate investment company. He is a retired insurance executive and is a founder and chairman of the board of National Diversity Solutions. He also serves on the boards of several community organizations, including Commerce Lexington, the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County, the Bluegrass Community Foundation, the Downtown Lexington Corp. and LexArts.