With great fanfare, the Commerce Department last week granted Nelma J. Andrew a $3.6 million loan guarantee to help expand her steel fabricating plant in Kansas City. It was the biggest government loan guarantee ever given to a business owned by a woman.
Yesterday, with no fanfare whatsoever, the department put the entire deal on hold. It seams Andrew is facing five counts of alleged theft back home in connection with her business activities.
"we are reviewing the application," said a spokesman for the department's Economic Development Administration.
Andrew is scheduled to go on trial next month in Mound City, Kan., on state felony charges of writing five checks totalling more than $16,000 to herself from the account of a company she previously ran.
Askes about the charges yesterday, Andrew said: "Hello no, they're not true."
"It's a very stricky wicket," added Andrew. "I am not guilty. It's very difficult to steal from yourself. I am an owner of record" of the company from which she is accused of stealing
Another problem in Andrew's much touted loan also has turned up. The Kansas City bank that was supposed to make the government-guaranteed loan says it notified Andrew last Monday that it was not longer interested in the deal.
By that time, however, the Department of Commerce's pupbic relations machine was already rolling, cranking out invitations to a ceremony where Secretary of Commerce Juanita M. Kreps would personally sign Andrew's loan guarantee.
Celebrity guests at the signing ceremony included Lynda Bird Robb, chair of the President's Advisory Committee on Woman, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Rep. Lindy Boggs (D.La.)
Calling Andrew "a troubleshooter" and "a turnaround specialist," the Commerce Department said her "record of success serves as an outstanding example of what we hope to accomplish" in aiding women business owners.
The $3.6 million government-guaranteed loan was to save 135 jobs and create 265 new ones, by allowing Andrew's Mid-West Metal Products Inc. to build a new metal parts fabricating plant in an inner city neighborhood of Kansas City, Commerce officials proclaimed.
"We were selling it hard," Ernest Lotito, the department's Commerce director of public affairs, acknowledged yesterday. Secretary Kreps, he added, was out of town when the story broke about Andrew's legal trouble and "may not even know about it."
The Kansas City Times disclosed the criminal charges pending against Andrew and contacted the agency, stalling Andrew's loan guarantee. CAPTION: Picture, Commerce Sectary Kreps (1), Nelma Andrew at Ceremony last week. By Margaret Thomas -- The Washington Post