Special Reports

Airport employees return merchandise, make payments

Former Lexington Blue Grass Airport executive director Michael A. Gobb has returned items he had that belonged to the airport, including a 12-gauge shotgun and its case and an XM-audio system.

Gobb's lawyer, William Rambicure, said Gobb brought the items to his office on Tuesday and they were picked up Wednesday by airport personnel.

Also returned were a Gateway laptop computer and power cord, a Dell desktop computer with a mouse and keyboard, a portable aviation radio, a vehicle security flag, a power inverter and a Guinness butane lighter, Rambicure said.

"He brought it to me," Rambicure said of the items. "I e-mailed (airport attorney) Tom Halbleib, and airport security personnel came here to pick it up."

Airport officials had asked Gobb, who resigned Jan. 2, and three airport directors who resigned last week to return all airport property in their possession. The four resigned amid an ongoing scandal and investigations concerning their spending of airport money.

The state auditor's office is conducting an audit of the airport, and the state attorney general's office notified the airport recently that there was an ongoing criminal investigation related to practices of airport staff. State auditor Crit Luallen launched her audit not long after articles appeared in the Herald-Leader about travel expenses and other expenditures by Gobb that were paid for by the airport.

The airport retrieved some airport property from the four who resigned, including SUVs and cell phones, just after they left their jobs. In addition to Gobb, airport director of operations John Coon, director of administration and finance John Rhodes, and director of planning and development John Slone resigned.

"I hope that they confirm we've turned everything in that we were supposed to have turned in," Rambicure said of Gobb.

But David Wescott, a spokesman for the airport, said airport officials won't know whether all of the airport property has been accounted for until the audit is complete.

"We have collected some stuff, but we don't have a complete list," Wescott said. "When the state auditor is done we'll have a clearer picture about what airport property should be returned and was returned."

Rambicure said it was his understanding that Gobb wanted to purchase the laptop computer, but airport officials wouldn't sell it to him.

"It was my understanding that they thought it best to get it back," the attorney said.

Rambicure also said that Gobb did not have any artwork in his home that was paid for with airport money. Former airport board chairman Bernard Lovely said earlier this month that Gobb might have used airport money to purchase original artwork that was unaccounted for.

"He doesn't have any art," Rambicure said. "He thinks all the artwork should be at the airport in storage."

Rambicure also said that the airport, as of Tuesday, still had some of Gobb's personal possessions that had been in his airport office. The attorney said he understood that arrangements were to be made for Gobb and the three other men to retrieve personal belongings from the airport.

Meanwhile, airport documents obtained by the Herald-Leader in response to a recent request under the state's open records law indicate that John Rhodes recently reimbursed the airport more than $2,095 for merchandise and services that he had charged on his airport credit card.

Some of the reimbursements were for charges that had been made as long as three years ago. He wrote several checks in early December, apparently to reimburse the airport for items and services including plane tickets that he bought for people who were not airport employees, and a Mount Sterling Applebee's restaurant tab that came to more than $230.

Wescott would not comment on the checks from Rhodes, nor would he say whether the others who resigned recently had repaid the airport for any goods and services since the Herald-Leader began publishing stories about the spending.

Halbleib said earlier this month that Coon and Slone, who charged a total of $5,080 on their airport-issued credit cards at a Texas strip club one night in 2004, had said they would reimburse the airport for the charges.

"I can't comment on specific charges due to an ongoing review by the state auditor," Wescott said.

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