Special Reports

Ex-chief used airport's ticket for Hawaii trip

Former Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael A. Gobb flew to Hawaii this month using a $1,900 business-class ticket purchased by the airport — a ticket he had been told not to use after he resigned Jan. 2.

After the Herald-Leader inquired about the ticket, an airport spokesman confirmed that Gobb had used it. Gobb initially told the Herald-Leader that he personally purchased another ticket for the trip.

Airport officials have asked that Gobb reimburse them.

"Following his departure from the airport, we told him that we didn't want him traveling on the ticket," said David Wescott, a spokesman hired by the airport board's attorney.

Gobb flew to Honolulu Jan. 4 using the non-refundable ticket, which was bought by the airport in March 2008.

"We made efforts to cancel that ticket," Wescott said. "Those efforts were unsuccessful. He indicated to us that he purchased another ticket."

The cost of the ticket is not the only money the airport hopes to get from Gobb. The airport board advanced him $10,000 in July, the same month that he requested and received a leave of absence for a "serious health condition."

The board has requested repayment of that loan as well, airport attorney Thomas Halbleib said last week.

Several attempts to reach Gobb at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Kona, Hawaii, where he has been staying, were unsuccessful.

Gobb went to Hawaii to attend a conference sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives. He is a member of the board.

Gobb resigned during a special meeting of the airport board, which was called to determine whether he should be disciplined or fired.

The resignation came after Herald-Leader articles revealed that he had spent more than $200,000 of the airport's money on travel and other expenses in just over two years.

Airport officials initially defended Gobb's travels, but an internal investigation that is continuing showed that the credit cards of other airport employees were used to make purchases for Gobb.

Those charges included electronics, a telephoto camera lens and tickets to a Hannah Montana concert for Gobb, his daughter and a friend. In addition, Gobb went to a Texas strip club with two other airport officials in 2004. Charges on airport credit cards were more than $5,000 for the evening.

Three other top airport managers resigned earlier this week after questions arose about their spending of airport money. The three, along with the airport's director of marketing, who is still employed by the airport, spent at least $332,000 on their airport-issued credit cards in three years.

State Auditor Crit Luallen's office is now auditing the airport's finances. She said earlier this month that she had notified state and federal agencies about the possibility of criminal wrongdoing at the airport.

Gobb became the airport's executive director in 1998.

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