Special Reports

Airport marketing official's job revised

A figure in the expense scandal at Blue Grass Airport has received a pay cut as part of a restructuring that also elevates another employee to supervise a reorganized department.

Brian Ellestad's job had been up in the air. He was one of seven employees who together had more than $500,000 in questionable or undocumented expenses over three years, according to state Auditor Crit Luallen.

"I don't see Brian leaving because of the issues that we've had," airport board chairman J. Robert Owens said. "I think he's been misportrayed by the press through this."

Ellestad was making a little more than $135,000 a year as director of marketing and community relations. Now, as deputy director of air service and community relations, he will make $105,000, airport interim executive director Eric Frankl said.

Ellestad said that the pay decrease is an adjustment for him, but that he understands and appreciates the decision.

Frankl said the change for Ellestad, an airport employee since 2006, will allow him to focus more on air service. Frankl said that Ellestad came to the airport from the airline industry and that he was not sure Ellestad's talents have been used to the fullest extent.

The new title and pay rate is based on recommendations by consulting firm Jacobs Consultancy, which the airport hired after a series of Herald-Leader articles detailing the expense practices of airport employees. Four officials, including executive director Michael Gobb, resigned, and a criminal investigation is under way.

Jacobs recommended that the title of director be changed to deputy director and that the pay range for deputy directors be $90,000 to $120,000.

The airport also has decided to promote Mark Day, previously the airport's manager of engineering and construction, to the new position of deputy director of engineering and maintenance.

Day, who was making about $78,000 a year, will now make $95,000.

Frankl said Day "seems like a natural fit" for the job, in which he will oversee a department of 38 employees. Day previously supervised engineering, which had five employees. The new structure adds all of the airport's maintenance workers, who were previously in its operations division.

A civil engineer, Day will oversee more than $66 million in construction projects that are expected to be completed by 2010.

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