Auckland mayoral candidate Viv Beck is facing allegations that she has failed to pay her advertising bill. Picture / File
Viv Beck’s candidacy for mayor of Auckland has been rocked by fresh claims of an unpaid bill of $353,000 with the release of an email accusing his campaign team of making false claims that the debt was
The email was sent last Thursday and included the claim that the planned budget for Beck’s tilt for Auckland mayor was $4million.
In a statement, Beck said she was disappointed the dispute was made public as both sides worked to resolve it.
That $4 million budget was later revised down to $2.2 million, the email says. The amount of money claimed was roughly what Labor and the National each spent on their entire campaign in the 2020 general election.
The spending limit for Auckland City Hall is around $680,000, but has only been counted for the final three months of the campaign, meaning candidates can effectively spend whatever they want before that. period.
Mayoral hopeful Leo Molloy, who pulled out of the race this month, said he planned to spend $1.5 million on his campaign.
A week ago, the Herald reported that Beck had been locked from her original social media and website accounts after defaulting on payment for work that included setting up an online presence.
Following the story, backers played it down with C&R board member Nicholas Albrecht – who is a member of Beck’s campaign team – saying negotiations were continuing but “a good two-thirds has been paid”.
The claim prompted an email to Viv Beck by Matt Blomfield, whose legal services agency was hired to collect the unpaid bill from advertising agency Hello Ltd.
In the email, he told Beck: “The statement is not true, Hello Limited has not received a penny from you or any associated organization in payment of its outstanding invoices.”
In it, Blomfield said he reviewed invoices and emails exchanged with Beck and his team. In his email, he claimed that “donations have not arrived as expected,” resulting in a budget cut from $4 million to $2.2 million and “as an excuse not to pay… Hello Limited’s invoices have become a problem”.
Blomfield said his review of correspondence between the agency and Beck’s campaign showed that Beck raised no concerns about the quality of work done.
In a statement to the Herald, Beck said Hello Limited was introduced to the campaign team in early 2022 and a wide range of work was discussed. No formal agreement or contract has been reached by the parties, she said.
“Hello subsequently invoiced the campaign for work undertaken which industry sources said was overpriced and did not meet the needs of the campaign as discussed with Hello,” Beck said.
She said she was “extremely disappointed” that the matter was made public while work was underway to resolve the dispute.
“This is a complex matter and my team has acted in good faith in making what I believe to be a fair and reasonable settlement offer, which was made a few weeks ago.”
“There will be no further comment as the parties work to resolve this matter,” the mayoral candidate said.
A Polhill spokesperson confirmed that settlement talks have taken place. He said Polhill representatives pulled out of those talks at midday on Saturday after failing to reach a settlement.
The spokesperson said the full amount owed was expected to be paid and that Beck never questioned the amount owed.
The Herald was told that invoices for the work were sent on February 28, March 31 and April 30 and totaled $353,504.25. The invoices detailed a wide range of tasks over several months, ranging from setting up office systems for the municipal campaign, contracting photographic and video work, creating brand strategies, having a presence in online and the design of online and other advertising works.
Blomfield said assurances given to Beck’s backers – including C&R chairman Kit Parkinson – suggested “someone on your team” was trying to “mitigate some of the damage” from the unpaid bill.
Blomfield’s email to Beck laid out the awkward situations he said had been created by the debt collection task.
These included the presence of Andrew Krukziener as one of Beck’s donors and also “a very dear friend” of Blomfield. The email also noted family ties between Hello Ltd managing director James Polhill, his wife Gilda Kirkpatrick and Krukziener, who was married to Kirkpatrick’s sister Gitta.
Blomfield said ties to Krukziener had prevented him from encouraging Polhill to respond publicly or take further action to collect the debt, but claims that most of the debt had been paid had led to a stalemate that she had to solve.
“Your name has been put forward as the candidate for mayor of Auckland.”
He wrote that in his opinion, Beck “should have taken responsibility for what happens in your camp, which includes managing budgets and the people working for you”.
“This problem with Hello Limited is your problem to be solved, no one else. The same way I have stood back and watched this unfold without action, it seems that you are relying on relationships that you simply have to sweep this away. under the rug.”
Blomfield wrote that this was, in his mind, “not fair to James and his company Hello Limited”.
“I’m not interested in hearing about the issues you’re having with the size of the account… Time spent months ago, these bills are in some cases over six months old. That’s your problem Viv and you have to solve it.”
Blomfield told Beck she had until 4 p.m. Friday to find an “appropriate resolution” to the debt or work would begin to collect the money and correct the claims made in the media.
The Herald identified last week that Beck moved the websites from a site registered in February to a new website registered in late July. Likewise, his Facebook account had changed from an account with a post in March to an account created last month.
Five days ago, two senior members of Communities and Residents were adamant that most of the bill had been paid.
C&R chairman Kit Parkinson said there was nothing in the advertising bill, saying he had just discovered there was a glitch a long time ago, but that it was settled and everyone was happy.
“I know there was a business transaction that took place, I know the business transaction was settled,” Parkinson said.
It was Parkinson’s opinion that “it’s a pure beating by one of the other competitors in the [mayoral] race”.
He referred the Herald to fellow C&R board member and member of Beck’s campaign team, Nicholas Albrecht, as the person who knows the “ins and outs.”
Albrecht said the bill was not a “big deal” and most of it had been paid.
Asked about the amount still to be paid, he said negotiations were continuing but he believed ‘two-thirds had been paid’ in the past two weeks but was not 100 per cent sure. .
He referred the Herald to property developer Andrew Krukziener – Beck’s campaign donor and Polhill’s brother-in-law, who was overseeing the bill.
“When are you going to do successful work on others,” Albrecht said.
The Herald today seeks comments from Parkinson and Albrecht.
Viv Beck was chief executive of central Auckland’s promotional vehicle, Heart of the City, until she took part in the Auckland mayoral race in March. She did so on a pro-business, center-right platform and won support from right-wing C&R.
Beck echoed National Chief Chris Luxon’s pledge to scrap the regional fuel tax and seek different sources of funding for infrastructure projects.
Polls have so far seen Beck trailing other mayoral candidates. Current poll favorites are Labour-backed Efeso Collins and independent Wayne Brown, former mayor of the Far North. A large contingent of voters identified as undecided.
Krukziener has been a prominent voice in a campaign opposing Auckland Council’s pedestrianization of the city centre. He was part of a group of businesses and landowners who sued the council claiming its plan for Queen Street caused “significant economic harm”.
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