Standoff over city contract question enters third week

On Thursday, Pat Noble, the Head of P.J. Noble, agreed to do an interview with WACH Fox if Gantt would permit it.

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia City Manager Steve Gantt continued his refusal Monday to acknowledge questions about a controversial city contract, as the standoff over what began as a routine inquiry enters its third week.

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Neither Gantt or the city's public relations department returned a request for comment Monday on the 9th consecutive weekday WACH Fox News has asked for a response.

The issue began with a simple question asking for details on a $65,000 city contract awarded to P.J. Noble & Associates at the August 4 city council meeting. That contract hired the Columbia-based consulting firm for a "public information and community relations initiative" as part of the city's ongoing construction improvements to the North Main Street corridor.

WACH Fox News asked the city for an explanation as to why an outside public relations firm is needed when the city already employs a full-time internal public relations department. Gantt refused to speak to WACH Fox News at the council meeting, but he did grant interviews to other media outlets that did not ask about the contract.

P.J. Noble & Associates President Pat Noble told WACH Fox News Thursday she is willling to discuss the contract and why she thinks it's necessary, but only if given permission to do so by the city as it is her client.

WACH Fox News tried to ask Gantt for that permission Thursday by going to his City Hall office after our calls went unanswered. Gantt would not meet with us; his assistant said the reason was because we did not have an appointment. Our request to make such an appointment remains unanswered.

Columbia City Council's next meeting is slated for Wednesday. WACH Fox News will be there to ask about the contract, as well as for a clarification from city officials regarding its committment to addressing media inquiries about public business in an open and transparent manner.