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      Columbia city manager responds to former worker's claims

      Former Columbia business loan officer Scott Blackmon is challening the city manager to a public forum about loan program being looked at by the feds.

      COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - One day after a former Columbia business loan officer questioned a recent records release about a city loan program, a high-ranking city official is firing back.

      On Monday, one-time city employee Scott Blackmon challenged Columbia city manager Steve Gantt to a public forum about a struggling loan program frozen by the U.S. Commerce Department until the city explains how it spent the money. The loans offered through the program are backed by both federal and Columbia tax dollars.

      After six months working as a business loan officer for the city of Columbia, Blackmon, an ex-banker with three decades of experience, simply walked off the job calling the situation "uglier than ugly."

      According to documents released by the city last week, roughly a third of the businesses granted loans owe approximately $2.7 million to the city program. However, Blackmon says the amount is more than twice that.

      On Tuesday, Columbia city manager Steve Gantt disputed that claim.

      "I'd like to see some facts and figures on that. I didn't know that Mr. Blackmon had delved deep enough into our loan portfolio to have that information," said Gantt. "So maybe he was doing something I didn't anticipate he was doing in the six months he was here."

      Gantt says there have been personnel changes in the Community Development office responsible for handling that loan program, operations have been streamlined and priorities reorganized. Many of the loans granted through the program went to start-up businesses to help generate jobs. The problem is some haven't paid back a single penny.

      COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - One day after a former Columbia business loan officer questioned a recent records release about a city loan program, a high-ranking city official is firing back.

      On Monday, one-time city employee Scott Blackmon challenged Columbia city manager Steve Gantt to a public forum about a struggling loan program frozen by the U.S. Commerce Department until the city explains how it spent the money. The loans offered through the program are backed by both federal and Columbia tax dollars.

      After six months working as a business loan officer for the city of Columbia, Blackmon simply walked off the job calling the situation "uglier than ugly."

      According to documents released by the city last week, roughly a third of the businesses granted loans owe approximately $2.7 million to the city program. However, Blackmon says the amount is more than twice that.

      On Tuesday, Columbia city manager Steve Gantt disputed that claim.

      Read more Former Columbia employee challenges city to public forum City of Columbia employee quits, claims he was asked to break the law CiCi's pizza closure brings to light City of Columbia TMs embattled commercial loan program

      "I'd like to see some facts and figures on that. I didn't know that Mr. Blackmon had delved deep enough into our loan portfolio to have that information," said Gantt. "So maybe he was doing something I didn't anticipate he was doing in the six months he was here."

      Gantt says there have been personnel changes in the Community Development office responsible for handling that loan program, operations have been streamlined and priorities reorganized. Many of the loans granted through the program went to start-up businesses to help generate jobs. The problem is some haven't paid back a single penny.

      "Just about every case is a little unique in that the timeline on when the loan was made whether it was made to an individual or an LLC or a company," said Gantt. "So the community development staff is working with our legal folks to go through those and they're taking whatever steps are necessary to try and move forward on trying to collect those funds."

      Gantt says, at this point, he is not aware of those departments taking any legal action against borrowers who haven't paid back the money owed. The city manager plans to meet with city department heads next week to discuss plans on how to recoup as much of that money as possible. Gantt expects a plan to be in place by the end of October that can be presented to Columbia city council.

      "Just about every case is a little unique in that the timeline on when the loan was made whether it was made to an individual or an LLC or a company," said Gantt. "So the community development staff is working with our legal folks to go through those and they're taking whatever steps are necessary to try and move forward on trying to collect those funds."

      Gantt says, at this point, he is not aware of those departments taking any legal action against borrowers who haven't paid back the money owed. The city manager plans to meet with city department heads next week to discuss plans on how to recoup as much of that money as possible. Gantt expects a plan to be in place by the end of October that can be presented to Columbia city council.

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