Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment

Opticare Vision/Express Mobile Transport

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Highlands Finishes Carespring Holiday Classic with Win

Bluebirds Blast Eagles

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior forward Oliver Harris bring the ball up in a recent game.

It has been a nice trend this season for the defending state champions.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (8-4 overall) drops a game and bounces back with a victory. Following a close 78-74 loss to Vestavia Hills (Alabama) on Tuesday, the Bluebirds took down the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy Eagles, 91-56 at Russell Bridges Gymnasium in the Carespring Holiday Classic.

"Our kids responded very well and that's what I'm most proud of," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Our guys were hungry knowing we kind of let one get away (Tuesday) in a very good game. We shared the basketball. We knocked down a lot of threes. We really controlled the game from the outset."

The Highlands coaching staff watched Cooper edge CHCA (4-4) in the first game Tuesday in overtime, 66-63. The Bluebirds led 46-25 at halftime and put the game out of reach in the third quarter leading 78-43 enforcing the running clock.

The Bluebirds saw 10 different player score. Junior guard Will Herald led the way scoring 27 points making seven three-pointers and senior guard Zach Barth scored 18 points making four triples with senior forward Oliver Harris scoring 12.

Reserves such as sophomore guard Nathan Vinson saw action in the fourth quarter. Nathan Vinson is trying to make his mark after seeing his older brother Sam Vinson lead the Bluebirds to the state championship last year.

"When I'm out there, I just try to go as hard as I can," Nathan Vinson said. "I try to get my teammates open shots among other things. (Sam) always showed me drills that I can do and just how to be a leader on and off the court."

Highlands made all three free throws and CHCA made 4-of-8 for 50 percent. Senior forward Jack Vogele and junior guard Weston Roberts led the Eagles scoring 11 and 10 points respectively.

"(The Eagles) tried to push it and they're quite as deep as we are," Listerman said. "Knocking down shots makes it more difficult to run. I felt we did a good job defending in the half-court, especially in the first half."

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Highlands Falls Short Against Alabama Power

Bluebirds Face CHCA in Second Game of Carespring HOliday Classic

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior guard Leyton Read (12) gets in position while Zach Barth (10) dribbles in the Carespring Holiday Classic against Vestavia Hills (Alabama) on Tuesday. Highlands lost 78-74.

The will power of the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (7-4 overall) stood out until the end of this one.

The Bluebirds took on the Vestavia Hills Rebels (11-1) from Alabama's largest Class 7A in the Carespring Holiday Classic at Russell Bridges Gymnasium. The Rebels made more plays down the stretch to hold on for a 78-74 victory.

"(It's about) making the tough plays (down the stretch)," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We didn't block out a couple of times and gave up some stick-backs. It's finishing a possession on offense. It's making that one more pass and knocking it down. It's knowing an assignment defensively and making the right rotation. The teams that we're playing right now are very, very good. So when you make those mistakes, they don't miss those opportunities. They make you pay for it. That's going to pay off for us in the long run. You get exposed. You're going to have to learn and adjust and we are. I thought our effort for 32 minutes was probably the best we've had. We just need to make a couple more plays."

Vestavia Hills is a suburb of Alabama's largest city in Birmingham. The lone loss of the year came to the defending Class 7A champion Birmingham Oak Mountain Eagles, 53-50 on Dec. 10.

Rebel junior 6-foot-3-inch shooting guard Win Miller showed why schools such as Auburn, Virginia Tech and the University of Georgia are recruiting him. Miller made 7-of-14 shots including 4-of-5 from three-point range and 13-of-16 free throws on his way to 33 points.

Miller came up huge for the Rebels in the third quarter. Highlands led 47-39. But Miller scored, recorded a steal on the inbounds pass, drew the foul and made two free throws to cut the Highlands lead to 47-43 with 5:30 left in the quarter.

"We had one of those guys (Sam Vinson who is starting at Northern Kentucky University) last year. That's what a Division I recruit does," Listerman said. "He controlled the game. They have some tough seniors. They run their stuff well. That is good for us. We have some good point guards we're going to face the next five, six weeks."

The Rebels had balance with seven different players scoring. Cole Turner scored 13 and Alex Armstrong added 11. Vestavia Hills made 27-of-56 shots for 48 percent including 7-of-21 from three-point range for 33 percent and 17-of-28 free throws for 61 percent. The Rebels had 23 rebounds, five assists, three steals and eight turnovers.

The Bluebirds displayed their usual balance offensively. Senior guards Zach Barth and Leyton Read scored 19 and 18 points respectively to lead the way. Senior forward Oliver Harris scored 15 with junior guard Will Herald scoring nine and sophomore center Brody Benke scoring eight.

Highlands made 31-of-55 shots for 56 percent including 11-of-23 from three-point range for 48 percent and 3-of-6 free throws for 50 percent. The Bluebirds also had 31 rebounds, 15 assists, four steals and 15 turnovers.

The game stayed back-and-forth through the first three quarters. Read hit two triples and Barth had an offensive put-back to give Highlands an 8-3 lead in the first couple minutes of the game.

But Vestavia Hills came back to tie the game. The Bluebirds led 21-20 after one following a Seth Ryan offensive put-back and 36-34 at halftime.

Highlands led by eight twice in the third quarter. But Vestavia Hills fought back and took a 56-55 lead with 1:27 left when Miller made 2-of-3 free throws. The Rebels led 58-57 entering the fourth quarter.

The Rebels built some distance with offensive rebounds leading 69-61 at one point. But Read and Herald made triples to make things interesting. A Read triple with 1:10 left in the game cut the lead to 75-74. But the Rebels made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 36 seconds to pull away.

"We got into foul trouble. We decided to go small and spread out their pressure," Listerman said. "It hurt us on the backboards. It's one of the things we talked about at the timeout. Those are just winning plays that a team like finishes."

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

GameWorks at Newport on the Levee Shuts Its Doors

GameWorks shut down just short of its 20-year anniversary at the Newport on the Levee location.

by Robin Gee

GameWorks, a popular amusement arcade, joined Newport on the Levee in 2002, just a year after the Levee opened. This week, the owners announced the location has shut its doors. A sign on the door mentions a possible rebranding and relaunch, but for now the doors are closed.

In a brief statement, the owners of the Los Angeles-based company explained their business has not recovered from the impact of the Covid pandemic. 

Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

"Thank you for the many years of memories! The past 20 months and counting we have seen our business turned upside down and continued slow economic recovery has left us no choice other than to close," they wrote. 

They thanked their customers and fans and offered a few ways to reach them with questions via or by writing GameWorks Inc., 5670 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90036. 

A sign on the door directs customers to another business in the Levee, Rotolo, and mentions a relaunch in the future. Fort Thomas Matters reached out to the company and to the Levee management and will update as new information is available.

A sign on GameWorks door mentions a possible relaunch in the future.

NKY's "At Home Chef" Promotes the Art of Conversation One Dinner at a Time

Northern Kentucky chef, Ken Durbin, owns The At Home Chef.
The At Home Chef crafts custom menus for in-home, intimate dining experiences.
Email him at or call 859-640-6958.

by Robin Gee

Traditionally, dinner has been the place where family and friends reconnect, recount their days, share their dreams and enjoy a good meal together. While many of us strive for that, these days all too often dinners are rushed, gobbled down while we’re checking our cell phones, catching up with tv news or worrying about a project due the next day.

Even on special occasions, the cook in the family or the host is rushing around making sure dinner is out on time and often joining mid-meal once everything is laid out and the pots and pans are soaking in the sink. 

Chef Ken Durbin wants to change all that. Through his business, The At Home Chef, he offers a personalized, fine in-home dining experience that "helps people create memories that last a lifetime." His service provides personalized and intimate meals taken from menu planning through clean up. While the experience is for one special night, he said it gives people the opportunity to rediscover the art of conversation and of relaxation and to truly appreciate sharing a meal at home.

"I’m not a caterer. I don’t do large events. My events are under 20 people, unique one-of-a-kind in-home dinners that are intimate. It provides us with an opportunity to help people enjoy a fine dining experience in the comfort of their own home."


Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM.

Many of his clients have beautiful homes, he said, but they think they need to go out to a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or enjoy time with friends. He helps people have that fine dining experience at home, with customized menus they help create.

"Every menu I’ve done for seven years now has been unique. I never repeat a menu. I don’t make people select from menus, or anything like that. I make them exactly what they want," he explains.

And after menu selection, most of the client’s work is done. They can relax and enjoy the special evening. Durbin sources all the ingredients, usually local and always the finest, he said, and on the day of the event he prepares the meal in your home, serves it and even cleans up. His last act of the night, he said, is taking out the garbage when he leaves. Without all the worry of preparation, serving and hosting (and tackling a messy kitchen), the night is free for people to talk, laugh, sing — whatever strikes their fancy. (And, yes, it is not all that uncommon for people to break out in song, he said).


The At Home Chef makes your home the high-end restaurant. Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM.  

It all starts with your menu

Durbin said his first step is to meet with the client, nail down a date and discuss the type of occasion and the goals for the evening. When the conversation turns to food, he asks a series of questions to identify what his client would like. If it’s a birthday or anniversary, he might ask what the special guest or guests like to eat. He’ll ask his client to reach out to guests as well, to make sure there aren’t any allergies or special needs. By providing customized menus, if some of the guests are vegetarian or on a special diet, for example, he can create dishes for just for them.

Some people want ideas and guidance in planning the meal or they just want to be surprised. He said he is happy to provide suggestions and support as they explore the options. Since he works with fresh, local ingredients whenever he can, he will often suggest items that are in-season, but will work with the clients to provide exactly what they want, he added.


Hand-selected and locally crafted charcuterie board. Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM. 

On the night of the event, Durbin will arrive and set up. He usually works alone for small parties, assisted by his wife, but may bring in another working chef to help if the number of guests pushes the upper ranges of 15-20, he said.

With open kitchens designed with large islands, he might serve right in the kitchen or in a formal dining room or another room his client selects. How much interaction between himself and the guests is also planned out. Some enjoy learning about the food and watching the process unfold, while others want more formal service. That is the beauty of private in-home dining, he said. The experience is designed to fit the home, the hosts and the goals of the occasion. 

Chef Ken Durbin preparing dinner for guests in their own home. Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM. 

An idea that grew

Voted Best Chef in Northern Kentucky the last three years in a row, Durbin didn’t start out to be a chef. He was working in the investment industry when he finally decided to leave to pursue his dreams. He attended the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, where he worked in the school’s fine dining restaurant, The Summit. From there he worked in a couple of restaurants, he said, before joining the University Club in downtown Cincinnati.

"At the University Club we did everything — private dining, weddings, rehearsal dinners. We did a regular seated dinner every night. We did breakfast, we did lunch, we did events. All kinds of people come through there," he said.

"A couple of people would come in on a snowy day and they’d say, 'Man, I wish you could just bring this to my house' and that always stuck with me. It had always been an idea I had," he said. 

The At Home Chef brings the whole team: logistics to setup, servers to pour wine and of course, his talent to serve your guests. Server Kelly, pictured here. Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM. 

One day, he said, he decided to take the plunge and start his own business. "I just went for it. I just started with a very minor amount of money."

He said he had grand plans for a number of directions for his business, but began to narrow it down as he discovered what he truly enjoyed. "It soon became clear to me that it was more fun and more rewarding to do dinner parties in people’s homes. So, basically, the business kind of found me, I didn’t find it."

In the process of cooking for people in their homes, he learned that people appreciated full service, from preparing the food to serving it and to cleaning up. "We clean everything when we’re done. Your kitchen, everything, put your dishes in the dishwasher. We’ll take out your garbage when we leave. So when you walk back into your kitchen, it’s as though we were never there. The only things that remain are the memories and the good meal you had."

1st Course: Baby Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans, and a Banyuls Sherry Vinaigrette.  
Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM. 

For many, a rediscovery

Durbin said even though he loves to cook, sometimes having someone else do the heavy lifting in the kitchen is freeing. "I was talking about this with my wife the other day. When I would cook Thanksgiving for the whole family...I’d be cooking all day and by the time I’m ready to relax after cooking dinner, everyone’s ready to leave," he noted. 

2nd Course: Prime Filet with Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and French Beans.
Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM.

He understands that for some people having him provide a full in-home meal can be a little bit unsettling at first "because they’re not used to just enjoying themselves in their house. They’re used to running to this kid, to that kid, to this, to that..."

The food is incredible, but it’s only part of the experience, he said. Having the opportunity to relax, truly enjoy oneself and to see their own home in a new way, is a big part of The At Home Chef experience.

"One of my main goals is to make sure that people are having that experience. Truly enjoying each others’ company around the table is very important. It goes around one of the core values of our business is being grateful. I think it’s very fitting right now. People slow down enough to be grateful, to look around and say, 'I’m happy to spend time with these people today.'"

For more information, visit The At Home Chef website.
Email him at or call him 859-640-6958.

Third Course: Chocolate Lava Cake with a Grand Marnier Raspberry Sauce.
Photo: Ben Gastright, FTM. 


Monday, December 27, 2021

City of Erlanger unveils Flagship Park improvements

The City of Erlanger has unveiled new improvements at Flagship Park, which include a new playground surface. 
"The new playground surface at Flagship Park is absolutely gorgeous and very squishy!" said Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette. "Perfect color and design combo that will help with longevity of the surface. This is another stellar job by our outstanding Public Works team. They never cease to amaze." 

Looking for a local, efficient, reliable electrician? Call Adam with AJR Electric. (859) 628-8304.
The Flagship Park surface is just one part of $1.25 million the city has allocated to improve parks and develop a master plan for future upgrades to the city's 12 parks. Plans call for major improvements to Silverlake and Rainbow parks and the development of a master plan that will initially include Railroad Depot and Stetter parks. 
"Well-maintained, inviting and attractive parks that appeal to those who want to be active as well as those who just want to relax are major factors in where people decide to live," Mayor Fette said. "City council and our administration decided that our parks have been underutilized and need an upgrade as well as a long-term master plan. An outstanding park system is a service we are committed to delivering to our community, and this plan will get us there." 

Governor Beshear appoints four from NKY to state boards, commissions

Nancy Grayson, President of the Horizon Funds of NKY, was appointed to the Endow Kentucky Commission. 

Gov. Beshear has appointed four from Northern Kentucky to positions on state boards:

Nancy Grayson of Walton is president of Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky has been appointed to the Endow Kentucky Commission.

She will serve for a term expiring Sep. 30, 2023.

Timothy O’Hearn of Fort Thomas, business agent at Local Union 393 Plumbers, Pipefitters & Mechanical Equipment Service, has been appointed to the Housing, Buildings and Construction Advisory Commission. He will serve until Nov. 30, 2024.

Michele Simms, director of nursing at Gateway Community & Technical College, has been appointed to the Kentucky Better Nursing Advisory Committee.

Jennifer Lawrence of Covington has been appointed a Special Justice to the Supreme Court of Kentucky, representing the 6th Supreme Court District.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Update: Details on the New Dunkin’ Donuts/Popeyes Alexandria Location

Pat Gilligan of Gilligan Company addresses the Alexandria Planning and Zoning Commission. He is  building a Dunkin' Donuts and Popeyes location at the corner of Poplar Ridge and Alexandria Pike.


by Robin Gee 

Plans for a combined Dunkin’ Donuts and Popeyes in Alexandria near the corner of Alexandria Pike and Poplar Ridge have moved forward. Franchise owner and developer Pat Gilligan plans to begin construction as soon as building permits are approved.

The Alexandria Planning and Zoning Commission met December 21 and approved the initial site plan for the business. Overall, it will be 5,500 square feet with two connected buildings, 3,200 square feet for Popeyes and 2,276 square feet for Dunkin’ Donuts.

Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

Gilligan said he owns 38 franchise locations, including the Dunkin’ Donuts located in Cold Spring, which opened in 2020 and has proven to be one of his busiest locations. In fact, the hope is that the new Alexandria store will help alleviate some of the congestion at the Cold Spring location.

The lot will include the required 40 parking spaces. Inside the Popeyes will provide 46 seats, and the Dunkin’ Donuts will have 21, but the focus is on the outside service. 

Driving through

Gilligan said the new location will incorporate the franchise’s latest drive through design.

"Most of our business has traditionally been drive through and, of course, with Corona that’s accelerated. We’re running 80 to 85 percent of our sales through drive through so you’ll notice we have a lot of queuing and stacking, but in this particular one, it’s a three-window building," he said.

The new design can accommodate 10 cars in its queue. 

"This is done specifically for speed of service on the drive through side. We’re able to split those three windows, the first one as a pay function, the middle one we call the present window where you get your product, and the third is a pull forward window," Gilligan said. 

He explained that he hopes the third window will not need to be used often, but it allows a car with a larger order to pull into a stationary position and wait, clearing the way for the next car to pull up and get its order.

This one small change in how food is ordered and picked up can save a lot of time, he said. "Essentially by splitting that pay transaction, we are cutting in half our window time so we may go from a 40 second window time down to 20 seconds and put 180 cars an hour through a busy location."

The Popeyes location will have two menu boards and two order points but will not have a third window at this time.

Commissioners had concerns

Commissioners brought up two concerns, traffic and water retention. Commissioner Randy Nehus noted that the Cold Spring location sometimes backs up onto US 27, and said Alexandria Pike is much narrower and likely unable to handle the flow. There was concern about school hour and rush hour traffic as well.

Gilligan noted his lot could accommodate up to 30 cars, and that the two businesses have different high traffic periods. Dunkin’ is open earlier and its high volume business is done between 6 a.m and 11 a.m., while Popeyes is a lunch and dinner restaurant.

He also said that his businesses tended not to be "destination" locations, pulling people in from all over. Most of his customers, he anticipates, will come from traffic already on the road near the restaurant.

Water runoff was another concern. Patrick Moone, an engineer from the Farnsworth Group, was on hand to answer questions about the site plan. He said he has been in contact with SD1 and the city engineer on this issue. The site will incorporate a stormwater chamber system and an underground retention pond that will allow for a slow down of flow and controlled release. This will allow for less water to be released at a time, but over a longer time period.

Alexandria city engineer Robert Seitzinger gave further explanation of the issues but did say the concern was about water pooling on the site after a mostly grassy area is covered by asphalt. He noted that the underground retention system would likely handle the issue, but in the case that it did not there might have to further work and discussion. 

An approval with contingency for the future

Commissioners discussed the matter further and asked Gilligan if his system did not work as planned, would he be willing to work with the city to alleviate any future issues with runoff.

Gilligan answered in the affirmative, but as a fail-safe the commissioners added a contingency to the motion to accept the site plan that "the developer assists with the storm water issue if it does arise."

With that, the commissioners approved the site plan unanimously.

Gilligan hopes to break ground as soon as possible, early this spring, once building permits are approved.

RELATED: Dunkin' Donuts/Popeyes Location Proposed for Alexandria 

RELATED: Dunkin' Donuts Coming to Cold Spring

Rep. Fleming Prefiles Legislation to Create Exemption for Veterans

Kentucky State Representative Ken Fleming has filed a bill to establish a tax exemption for retired veterans.
Representative Ken Fleming has prefiled legislation that would establish a tax exemption for Kentucky veterans following their retirement from the armed forces. The measure is cosponsored by Representative Walker Thomas and Representative DJ Johnson.

"These men and women have dedicated their lives to the service of their country," said Representative Fleming. "Now, it is our responsibility to ensure they receive the benefits that they have rightfully earned."

Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

BR 971 would create a deduction of the first year’s income for retired veterans who remain in or immediately move to Kentucky upon retirement. The bill would require permanent residency within the state for at least three consecutive years following to remain eligible. In addition to supporting Kentucky’s veterans, sponsors note the measure has the potential for significant economic and workforce development across the state.

"These are highly skilled, hardworking individuals," said Representative Thomas. "They bring expertise and experience that would be invaluable to our state."

Of the 41 states that tax personal income, there are currently 23 that do not tax military retirement pay. Kentucky is among the remaining states that include partial exemptions, only exempting veterans who retired before 1997 and whose retirement pay does not exceed $31,110. This measure would give exemption to all veterans who retire in or move to Kentucky, regardless of income.

“Veterans have a lot of options as far as where to retire,” said Representative Johnson. “We want Kentucky to be the best option for them.”


BR 971 can be found on the Legislative Research Commission’s website at or see a summary of the bill on the Kentucky General Assemble website.

Boone County Jury Awards Nearly $2 million to Pilot Fired for Refusing to Fly in Unsafe Conditions

A Boone County jury awarded nearly $2 million in a wrongful termination suit for a client represented by Attorneys Anthony Bucher (pictured) and Rachel Wilhite of Gatlin Voelker.

by Robin Gee

A pilot who flew a private plane for Columbia Sussex in Crestview Hills was awarded $1,990,833 in damages by a Boone County jury after he was fired for refusing to fly to the Caribbean as a hurricane threatened. The award includes $1.3 million in punitive damages.

Anthony Bucher, an attorney with Gatlin Voelker in Covington, said the facts of the case were persuasive. 

"Everybody’s been on a plane; everybody’s experienced unpredictable weather so in that respect this was a compelling case," Bucher said. "I never dreamt we’d get the kind of verdict we got, but I’m certainly pleased with it...I’ll be honest, in closing I asked the jury for $1 million in punitive. They came back with $1.3 million, so they were obviously moved." 
Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

According to his client, pilot Ray Justinic, the weather conditions made it unsafe to fly on that day. He informed his employers he would check conditions on the following day and, if they were safe, he would fly then. When he called in the next day to discuss the situation, he was told that the company had hired a temporary pilot to make the trip the night before. A few days later, he was informed he no longer worked for the company
Editor's note for clarity: Justinic was an employee of Airtech, which was hired by Columbia Sussex to manage its planes and pilots. Fort Mitchell Construction is an affiliated company of Columbia Sussex which operates the planes. All three entities are defendants in Justinic's lawsuit.

The story unfolds

Justinic had close to 50 years of experience flying, first for law enforcement and then for Delta Airlines. According to FAA rules, pilots who reach age 65 can no longer fly large commercial airline jets, but they can continue to fly for private companies if their medical requirements are kept up-to-date. In January 2017, after retiring from Delta, he took a position flying a private plane for Columbia Sussex.

The company operates about 40 hotels including the Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa on Saint Martin. The hotel incurred damage when the island was hit by Irma, a Category 4 hurricane, on September 6, 2017. The company later filed for $175 million in insurance claims.

According to the complaint filed by Justinic, on Saturday, September 9, while Irma had moved toward Florida, the owners asked him to load the plane and fly relief supplies and insurance adjusters to the site to assess damages. He would also transport employees of the hotel off the island. The plan was for him to first fly to San Juan in Puerto Rico and wait there until he could continue on to Saint Martin.

Bucher said his client came in on that Saturday and helped to load the plane with shovels, rakes and cleaning supplies but said he was concerned about weather conditions and where he might stop to fuel up or if he encountered mechanical issues or other concerns during the flight. After checking weather conditions, he informed his company contact that it was unsafe to fly that day and offered to keep an eye on the weather with the hope that the next day conditions would be more favorable.

Now open in the Fort! 33 N. Fort Thomas Ave.

High winds and another hurricane

Bucher, the attorney, explained that his client believed that the weather did not look good. "He gets home about 4 p.m. and starts looking at some weather information. His position was 'I’m 69 years old, I’ve been loading a plane for four hours with 2,000 pounds worth of stuff. I’m not in the position to fly three-and-a-half hours in any kind of weather.'"

At that point, another hurricane, Jose, was approaching the area, and winds had been picking up, Bucher said.

Justinic told Bucher he called in Saturday night and said he was not flying anywhere that night, and it was looking iffy for the next day as well, but that he would get up early and check. Instead, the  company hired another pilot through a temporary agency, and the flight was completed.

"The next morning, my client, not knowing they had made that decision, got up at five in the morning and put together a flight plan. He said he was prepared to go but couldn’t get any information back from his employers...It was going to be a dicey flight on Sunday, but one he was prepared to make. The hurricane [Jose] had turned north and so he said he was going to try to circle down and come under it," explained Bucher.

Once he did reach the company, Justinic was told someone else had made the trip and a few days later, on September 20, he was informed he was out of a job.

Company files first

What Bucher said he finds amazing about all this is what the company did next.

He explained that, no matter how much experience a pilot has, they must train and be rated to fly specific types of planes. When Justinic was hired, he did not have the rating he needed, but the company agreed to pay for him to get the training.

The cost of the training was $34,000. The owner had an addendum placed on the job offer to Justinic that said if he left the company within two years for another job, he would have to pay back a prorated portion of the training expense. The pilot agreed to the deal and signed on.

Only a few weeks after he was let go, Justinic received a letter from the company stating that he would be sued if he did not return $20,000 of the training cost. 

According to the termination letter from his direct employer, Airtech, Justinic's refusal to fly to San Juan was unjustified and constituted abandonment of his job. When the pilot refused to reimburse the company, his employers filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract, as well as promissary estoppel (going back on one's promise in the contract) and unjust enrichment.
"At the end of the day, I don’t know if my client would have pursued a claim against them had they not initiated that," said Bucher. 

It was clear from Justinic's actions, he did not abandon his job and had full intention of flying the plane as soon as conditions allowed, said Bucher. Texts presented in the case show the pilot and his contact at the company discussing ideas and alternatives for several days with the pilot providing wind and weather updates, he said. 

Complexities and complications

One issue complicating the case in the beginning, said Bucher, was the number of different, yet interrelated companies involved. Columbia Sussex has different companies who operate their different hotels. The company’s private plane is owned by another of their companies, Fort Mitchell Construction. Another company, Columbia Sussex Management, handles most of the employees.

A separate company, Airtech, was hired by Columbia Sussex to maintain and manage the plane. This was the company listed as Justinic’s employer, although Bucher argued that this was basically a pass-through expense for Columbia Sussex.

Because of the situation, Bucher said he and his client initially sued Airtech but filed against Columbia Sussex for interfering in Airtech’s relationship with the pilot.

"Then, right when the trial was starting, [Columbia Sussex] agreed to dismiss their claims for the $20,000 realizing that would have made them look horrible," said Bucher. "We then stipulated that all three companies were his joint employers."

With this, all other claims were dropped allowing Bucher and his client to focus on the wrongful termination claim.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the justice system, and the trial was delayed. 
Meet Ethan and the team.

Relief at last

Bucher said his client’s biggest concern was the damage done to his reputation. Having to explain his firing and a pending lawsuit for training expenses, he said, would ruin his chances of being hired anywhere else.

The award was a welcome end to a long drawn-out case, said Bucher.

"I am really proud of Ray," he said. "He stuck with this. It took a lot of time and a lot of patience to finally get his day in court. He was patient, he was persistent. I think at the end of the day, what he was most happy with was there was some validation that he was in fact making the right decision as a pilot."

Fort Thomas Matters reached out to Columbia Sussex for comment but calls were not returned.

Highlands Basketball Teams Record Big Holiday Tournament Wins

Highlands Girls Play for Tournament Championship Thursday

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior point guard Zach Barth (left) sets up a play in a recent game.

Both Highlands basketball teams hit the road for the holidays and recorded huge victories.

Boys, Basketball:
Highlands 76, Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft 69:

The Bluebirds (7-3 overall) found themselves down 22 at halftime against the Senators from downtown Cincinnati who drove to the Ohio Division III (second-smallest of four classes) semifinals last year.

Highlands finished the third quarter on an 18-0 run to trail just 52-50 entering the fourth quarter. The Bluebirds then finished the deal outscoring the Senators, 26-17.

"I don't know if I've ever had a bigger comeback as a head coach in my 12 years as a head coach," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "I think that's definitely the largest deficit we've overcome against a high-quality opponent. Taft is not only one of the best teams in Cincinnati, but one of the best teams in Ohio. For us to gut it out like we did and have the fortitude and togetherness as a group to keep fighting, I'm so proud of our guys."

The Bluebirds put together their usual balanced scoring. Senior guards Zach Barth and Leyton Read led the way with 22 points and 17 points respectively. Junior guard Will Herald followed with 14 and sophomore center Brody Benke scored 11 including one three-pointer.

"Coach (Listerman) sparked us at halftime," Read said. "We were getting up and down the floor. We kept moving, getting the rebounds and getting out in transition where we're best at finding our shooters. All of us were hitting threes."

Highlands made 30-of-60 shots for 50 percent including 8-of-16 three-point attempts for the same percentage. The Bluebirds also made 8-of-11 free throws for 73 percent and grabbed 34 rebounds. Senior forward Oliver Harris led the way with 11.

Junior 6-foot-4-inch forward Rayvon Griffith led Taft with 21 points. He is being recruited by Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati and other NCAA Division I schools. Small forward Demario Hill and point guard Demarco Bradley followed with 14 and 12 points respectively.

Highlands plays host to Vestavia Hills (Alabama) on Dec. 28 in its annual Carespring Holiday Classic. Game time is 7:45 p.m.

Basketball, Girls:
Highlands 53, Assumption 48:

The young Bluebirds (3-4) took a huge step forward ending the eight-game winning streak for the host Rockets (8-2).

Assumption put a lot of players around freshman 6-foot-2-inch center Marissa Green holding her to six points. But the two seniors picked up the slack. Senior 6-1 center CC Shick scored 16 points and senior guard Meg Gessner scored 11.

"The good thing is CC Shick was able to get some one-on-ones and we were able to get her the ball from our guards. She was able to get some and-ones," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We just had guards step up and handle the ball."

Sophomore 5-9 center Kasey Gross scored eight points for the second straight game. Seven different Bluebirds scored. The Bluebirds made 19-of-34 shots for 56 percent including 5-of-11 from three-point range for 46 percent and 10-of-12 free throws for 83 percent.

"I think we did a good of being able to shift through (the defense) and know what plays we needed to run when they would come up and double team Marissa," Gross said. "Our confidence has gone up a lot with driving to the basket among other things."

Assumption put two players in double figures making 8-of-11 free throws for 73 percent. Sophomore guards Geriann Ackermann and Taryn Morris scored 15 and 10 points respectively.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Huntington Prep Snaps Highlands Winning Streak

Bluebirds Lose First Game in Queen City Classic

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior forward Oliver Harris (13) gets in position during a recent game.

The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (6-3 overall) saw its five-game winning streak snapped in the Queen City Holiday Classic at Cincinnati McNicholas in an 89-61 loss to the Huntington (West Virginia) Prep Irish.

Junior 6-foot-8-inch forward Ron Jessamy scored 18 points for Huntington Prep. Senior 6-5 guard Jimma James scored 25. The Irish made 4-of-5 free throws for 80 percent

Highlands saw three players reach double figures. Junior guard Will Herald led the way with 20 points making five three pointers. Senior forward Oliver Harris and sophomore center Brody Benke scored 10 points each. 

The Bluebirds made 21-of-65 shots for 32 percent including 6-of-25 three-point tries for 24 percent and 13-of-20 free throws for 65 percent. They also had 39 rebounds. Senior forward Cole Kocher led the way with eight.

Dunkin' Donuts/Popeyes Location Proposed for Alexandria

A new Dunkin' Donuts and Popeyes is proposed for the corner of Poplar Ridge and Alexandria Pike, next door to Burger King.

by Robin Gee

A site plan for a new Dunkin' Donuts and Popeyes location to be built on the corner of Alexandria Pike and Poplar Ridge was presented at last night's city of Alexandria’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

The location is an empty lot across from Speedway and next to Burger King along Alexandria Pike.

Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

According to the original conceptual drawings, the project includes separate buildings for the two different restaurants to be adjoined by a canopy.

Further details on this project coming soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

meetNKY Joins Kentucky Tourism Industry in Supporting Western Kentucky

Julie Kirkpatrick, President and CEO of meetNKY. 

As the recovery efforts continue in Western Kentucky, meetNKY, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, has joined other tourism industry partners in donating to assist with the relief efforts.

The Executive Committee of the Board of Commission for meetNKY unanimously approved a $10,000 donation to the Team Western Kentucky Relief Fund. The donation was made from interest the organization has accumulated from investments. 
The Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, meetNKY, is joining industry partners in relief efforts to support western Kentuckians impacted by the recent tornados.

"The entire Northern Kentucky tourism industry continues to offer our prayers and help for our fellow residents in Western Kentucky," said meetNKY Board Chair Josh Quinn. "We hope this donation, as it joins many others, helps with immediate recovery needs. The tourism industry in our state is a close family and we continue to lift our friends in prayer."

meetNKY is joining a growing list of tourism industry partners that are making contributions to assist with relief efforts. The Northern Kentucky tourism industry and The B-Line donated an "NKY Experience Basket" for the Kentucky Distillers Association, Fred Minnick and Bourbon Crusader's "Kentucky Bourbon Benefit,"also raising funds for Western Kentucky. 
Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡
Several Northern Kentucky distilleries are involved in raising funds through the once-in-a-lifetime bourbon auction including Boone County Distilling, The Old Pogue Distillery, New Riff Distilling and Neeley Family Distillery. The auction continues into a live auction for certain rare items on Tuesday, December 21 at 7 p.m.

For more information contact: Julie Kirkpatrick at


Union City Administrator Named County Manager of the Year

Union Kentucky City Adminstrator David Plummer

Union City Administrative Officer (CAO) David Plummer has been named the Northern Kentucky City/County Manager of the Year.

Plummer, city administrative officer (CAO) of Union, Kentucky, was named City/County Manager of the Year at the Dec. 7 City/County Managers’ meeting. He has been the city administrative officer in Union for more than four years.

Sign up for The Daily Link and get news just like this delivered to your inbox each weekday. πŸ‘‡

Since 2017, Plummer has helped to manage the flurry of growth the city has experienced. Notable achievements include the annexation of approximately 240 acres of properties to the West and South of Union’s boarders, working with the state on the upgrading of SR 536 from two lanes to four, a remodeled city building, four Rounds of Small Business Grants totaling over $225,000 during the pandemic, securing commitment for the first mixed-use concept in the Town Center area, and most recently helping to facilitate conversations leading to the development of the Union Promenade, a 65-acre horizontal mixed use development site that will be transformational for the City of Union.

The most recent development will bring 300 apartments, 50 single family homes, 60,000 square feet of office space, and several retail and dining establishments.

"This award came from my fellow administrators," said Plummer, "so I am proud and appreciative of their recognition of my work in Union and for our organization."

Union has a population of 7,400 as of the 2020 census. It is a growing, developing community with many young families and working professionals. "I am grateful for the opportunity to work with staff, the city of Union Commission and all its residents and businesses. We have had some challenges but have worked well together to bring about positive change in Union."

Plummer earned his master’s in metropolitan governance from Northern Kentucky University; and a B.A. from Xavier University in Cincinnati in 2007. He is president of the Northern Kentucky City/County Managers Association.

Plummer has been happily married to his wife Melissa for seven years. They live in Alexandria and have five-year old twins, Liam and Nora with the 'tie-breaker' due soon mid-December 2021.