Two business partners from Titusville, Pa. came to D.C. yesterday setting up a demonstration on a card table in front of the Small Business Administration office and left happy late in the day after resolving a year-and-a-half-old complaint with the SBA
Frank Robinson and William Trumbull, co-owner-operators of Lee Oil and Natural Gas Co. had been seeking to lease government equipment for their oil drilling business.
But a hold was put on an SBA Excess Property Program in 1978 preventing them from receiving approval and putting them in a catch-22 situation.
Several trips to Washington and talks with SBA officials failed to bring action until Friday when Deputy Administrator William Mauk met with them after inquiries from reporters and promised a decision within the week.
About three years ago, Robinson, a black man who has some previous family oil drilling experience in Kansas, found some oil-rich land and set up a partnership with Trumbull using leased government equipment.
Soon after, they began asking for additional equipment and stepped up their requests when some of the machinery was damaged. Calling it sabotage, they said that lines were cut, a generator was stolen and tires, windows and lights were shot at.
While the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state police investigated the incidents, they began putting in equipment contract requests with the SBA could approve under a statutory rule which gives the agency the right to approve such grants but never was exercised.
The two men brought their requests to the SBA Office of Advocacy, which handles such complaints, and were offered several suggestions but did not take any action.
Today, they set up a display in front of the agency's office showing samples of crude oil in a paper cup to draw public attention to their complaint. By mid-afternoon they were escorted to Mauk's office where they were promised that the hold on equipment and request for a grant would be considered.
According to Trumbull, their efforts will also help 22 other small businessmen who SBA officials told them have gotten caught in the same tangle.
It's just one example where the SBA did some foot-dragging and held up their business, explained SBA spokesman Chuck Searcy.
"We aren't trying to be vindictive," said Robinson. "We just wanted some help."
But the meeting satisfied both men.
"We're very pleased with the results of our meeting," said Trumbull. CAPTION: Picture, Frank D. left, president of Lee Oil, and partner William Trumbull. by Tom Allen -- The Washington Post