Special Reports

Board questioned Gobb's job fitness

The Lexington Blue Grass Airport board was troubled about whether Michael Gobb could carry out his duties as the airport's executive director when he returned to work in September after a six-week leave.

In a Sept. 16 letter hand-delivered to Gobb, then-board chairman Bernard Lovely wrote: "Your recent personal leave of absence gives us some concern regarding your ability to meet your substantial responsibilities to the Airport Board."

Gobb, who resigned from his job in early January amid questions about his spending of airport money, requested a month's leave of absence because of a "serious health condition" on July 19. The leave was extended for two more weeks. He returned to work after Labor Day. Neither he nor airport officials have commented publicly about the medical condition.

The Herald-Leader obtained a copy of the September letter from the airport through the state open records law. But the letter has many redactions, including details of what the board requested of Gobb.

The letter said that board members intended to take "a more active role in both understanding and monitoring your ability to perform this role."

J. Robert Owens, the current chairman of the airport board, said that the board had a procedure in place to monitor Gobb's ability to do his job. But Owens would not elaborate on the procedure.

"Our intent was to monitor his performance, taking into account the medical treatments he received," Owens said.

"There was a medical issue and it was addressed in an appropriate fashion and we felt that the actions taken were appropriate," he said.

Owens said the board was not aware of any instances where Gobb's condition had a negative effect on his job performance after he returned to work in September.

A critical role

The airport board gave Gobb a $10,000 advance in July to help him with medical expenses.

An airport credit-card billing statement indicates that Gobb, his wife, Kristina Gobb, and Brian Ellestad, the airport's director of marketing and community relations, flew from Lexington to Tucson, Ariz., on the same day Michael Gobb requested the medical leave.

Michael Gobb had a one-way ticket to Tucson, while Kristina Gobb and Ellestad had round-trip tickets. The tickets cost the airport more than $3,000.

Records released to the Herald-Leader also show that Michael Gobb charged $102 to his airport credit card on July 21 at Cottonwood de Tucson, a treatment facility for a wide range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management and alcohol and drug dependency. The bill does not say what the charge was for.

Cottonwood de Tucson, according to its Web site, currently charges between $995 and $1,500 a day for treatment.

Gobb did not return a telephone call requesting comment. His attorney, William Rambicure, declined to comment on Gobb's condition.

The September letter to Gobb congratulates him on "completing your recent course of medical treatment. ... No single person plays a more critical role in the advancement of the Airport Board's missions than you do."

The letter also says that the board has the right to terminate Gobb's employment "at any time and for any reason."

The letter also mentions a preference by Gobb that the letter and records — it's not clear which records — be maintained by a third party for eventual destruction. The letter indicates the board's willingness to honor Gobb's wish under certain circumstances. However, those circumstances are redacted.

Airport attorney Thomas Halbleib said earlier this week that Gobb had not repaid the $10,000 advance.

Electronics returned

Rambicure said Wednesday that he has been in discussions with airport officials about reimbursements by Gobb to the airport. In addition to the $10,000, the airport is seeking reimbursement for a plane ticket to Hawaii in January that cost the airport about $1,900.

Gobb used the ticket after he left his job. Rambicure has said it is his understanding that Gobb purchased his own ticket for the trip and thought he was using that ticket.

Rambicure also said Wednesday that he had recently received items from Gobb that were paid for by the airport. They include a digital LCD TV receiver and stand, a Sony Airband Transceiver, a hand-held GPS navigator, a cell phone, a blood pressure monitor and a backpack.

Gobb returned several other items last month, including computers.

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