Lowcountry contractor accused of deserting projects, not paying subcontractors

Kera and Corey Blackman hired contractor Paul Kime in 2022 to build a home on their property in St. Stephen.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:41 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Facing a growing list of legal battles, one Lowcountry contractor is accused of abandoning projects after customers paid thousands and refusing to pay other businesses for the work they did for him.

Kera and Corey Blackman hired contractor Paul Kime in 2022 to build a home on their property in St. Stephen.

“[It’s going to be] a ‘barndominium,’ so it’s a metal building that on the inside looks like a regular house,” Corey Blackman says. “We really want to just create more space and create a bigger environment for family get-togethers.”

The family should have moved into a newly built house in July, they say, but their property sits empty. They blame Kime.

“Nothing he was doing was adding up, and I just saw everything go up in smoke,” Kera Blackman says.

The couple hired Kime to handle every detail of the project, from designing the house to clearing the land to constructing the home.

“He was supposed to be a one-stop shop,” Corey Blackman says.

Kime has an active home builders license, records from the State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation show. He has started several limited liability companies over the years, including BB&P Construction Management, Integrity Builders of Charleston and, most recently, 2141 LLC, according to the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office.

After the couple paid Kime a $36,000 draw from their loan and a $2,500 deposit, he only barely started the project before backing out, the Blackmans say.

“We closed on our property in September of last year,” Corey Blackman says. “[Kime] quit and breached his own contract on Dec. 5 of last year. Since then, it’s almost been a complete stop. The biggest setback is just time; you cannot get the time back.”

The family claims Kime’s reason behind deserting the project after they signed the contract was that he decided it was too much work and he used up the money the Blackmans paid him at the beginning stages of the project.

“I was in disbelief honestly,” Corey Blackman says. “It’s just amazing that someone can take on a job like that, and just all of a sudden know what you’re going into, know what your family is going through, know what you’re trying to pursue and the dream you’re trying to make, and just literally stomp it on the ground.”

The Blackmans say they feel angry, frustrated and defeated.

“If we’d had the right guy at the right time, we could be living in our house right, now not standing on a pile of dirt,” Corey Blackman says.

They’re not the only customers, though, who accuse Kime of taking their money and not completing their project.

Kime — or one of his LLCs — has been sued multiple times for similar allegations.

One pending lawsuit claims he engaged in “unfair and deceitful trade practices,” including contracting for jobs on specific budgets and timeframes when he doesn’t have the “skill, contractors, or financial wherewithal to perform.” That suit alleges he represented that he had the “capitalization, creditworthiness or resources to complete [the project’s] scope of work” when he knew he did not.

Another lawsuit alleges Kime breached a customer’s contract by his “failure to perform….after collecting funds” from the customer. The suit goes on to say Kime made “material and false representations, which he knew to be false” when he made invoices “that were not used as indicated.”

In the latter case, a judge ruled in the customer’s favor, ordering Kime to pay more than $97,000 in damages.

Clients aren’t the only ones claiming they’ve had issues with Kime, however.

“He, in a certain word, ghosted me,” Patrick Ketchem, who owns a plumbing company, says.

Kime hired Ketchem for several projects, and he was getting paid for his work at first, he says. Then during the last phase of a project, after completing all the plumbing work, Kime stopped responding, Ketchem says.

“There was no contact,” he says. “I couldn’t get ahold of him. I was calling everyone. No one responded to email or text messages until I reached out with the threat of potentially filing a lawsuit against them.”

Ketchem tells us he’s out at least $12,000 now. His attorney just filed a lawsuit on his behalf, alleging Kime breached the contract by failing to pay Ketchem after he completed the projects and passed inspection. The lawsuit argues Kime’s conduct was “intentional, or reckless and wanton without regard” to Ketchem’s rights.

“It comes at a bad time, as we’re getting married, me and my fiancé,” Ketchem says. “It just kind of throws a wrench into our plans and our future.”

Ketchem’s lawsuit alleges Kime’s excuse for not paying him for his work was because Ketchem owes money for 32 previous mistakes. The suit acknowledges two mistakes and states Ketchem tried to contact Kime multiple times to correct them. It wasn’t until Ketchem tried to get paid for his work, however, that Kime even mentioned the mistakes, the lawsuit states.

“I was never reached out to or told about either of the mistakes on my end or offered any explanation or just a way to pay to make a right on my end, which I believe is just a cop-out,” Ketchem says.

Other businesses have taken Kime to court too. He’s been ordered to pay more than $2,600 to a flooring company, more than $3,500 to a granite company and more than $7,500 to an architect, court records state.

He was also just found guilty of cutting down a grand tree without a permit, the records state.

“You’ve been very much misinformed by people who are trying to spread false information and slander,” Kime wrote in an email in an initial request for comment.

Over the phone, in reference to the numerous customer complaints and lawsuits against him, Kime says he lost money in every single one of these business deals. He called one former customer a “piece of sh—” and another a “slumlord real estate developer” who is “one of the worst human beings on this earth.”

At first, Kime said he closed his construction company because of these issues with former clients and doesn’t have any involvement with any customers anymore. Then he admitted he’s actually still finishing up some projects but plans to shut down the LLC by the end of the year.

Kime’s lawyer initially agreed to allow a sit-down interview with Kime, but then later backed out, instead releasing a statement:

Paul Kime denies the allegations made by Mr. Blackman and contained in his Complaint to the SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. After signing the contract, Mr. Blackman as owner made a number of changes to the project which required Mr. Kime as contractor to incur substantial time and expense which exhausted the deposited funds. The lender canceled the loan on this project due to Mr. Blackman’s changes and the cost to implement these changes which exceeded the project budget. While Mr. Kime looks forward to being heard and proving his case, the proper forum for doing so is at a hearing before the LLR board.

Paul Kime hired Patrick Ketchem to perform plumbing work based on Mr. Ketchem’s assurance that he was qualified to do the work. In some instances, the work failed inspections and Paul Kime had to repair Mr. Ketchem’s work at his own expense after Mr. Ketchem failed or refused to do so. Mr. Kime also discovered that Mr. Ketchem was not licensed to perform plumbing work, and fired him. Mr. Kime recently became aware of a lawsuit filed against him by Mr. Ketchem. Mr. Kime will defend that lawsuit and will assert counterclaims for the cost of all the repairs he had to make to Mr. Ketchem’s work.

The Blackmans and Ketchem both refute Kime’s claims.

The Blackmans say they did not have multiple changes to their project and their lender never quit on the home build or stopped the financing. Ketchem says he was more than happy to fix any alleged issues and was in the process of getting his plumbing contractor’s license during the project, which Kime was aware of.

As Kime continues fighting this growing list of accusations, Ketchem is urging people to be careful.

“Don’t ignore the red flags,” he says.

The Blackmans are praying that with their new contractor, they’ll soon have a new house, and they’re praying their former contractor is one day held accountable.

“You can’t put a price on family dinners at the table,” Corey Blackman says. “Christmases at home, he stole it from us. That’s really it. It’s not the money. It’s not the time. He’s stolen a piece of our life.”

The Blackmans have also filed a complaint against Kime with the State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. In response to questions about whether there are other complaints against Kime with the state, the department responded, “State law prohibits the Board from saying whether there are complaints against a licensee.”

The department did provide two orders against Kime that are public: a cease and desist from engaging in residential building after not providing the S.C. Residential Builders Commission with proof of bond and a $500 citation for not obtaining a builders permit.