Government

Checks are bouncing after newbo evolve, some vendors say

Go Cedar Rapids 'had every intention of honoring them,' interim chief says

The main stage photographed during preparations for New Evolve in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)
The main stage photographed during preparations for New Evolve in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Hannah Schroeder/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Some vendors for newbo evolve, a festival praised by attendees but has proved to be a financial debacle, are waiting for payments and others are threatening lawsuits after they say checks issued by GO Cedar Rapids have bounced.

Katrina Adia of Chicago-based Windy City Mobile Spa provided The Gazette a copy of a Bankers Trust check for $9,865 signed by former GO Cedar Rapids chief executive Aaron McCreight on Aug. 9 and bank notices on Aug. 17 showing the check did not clear. GO Cedar Rapids, the local tourism bureau, produced newbo evolve earlier this month.

“My feelings is that, I just want my payment so I can pay my technicians, I can solve it with the bank and hope and pray my technicians will understand why I can’t pay them and they should continue to work with me,” Adia said in a telephone interview this week.

Days after newbo evolve, which was held Aug. 3-5, the board of directors announced the event lost $2.3 million and McCreight and Scott Tallman, creative director for newbo evolve, had been fired. The board acknowledged some vendors had not been paid and, while not getting into specifics or mentioning bad checks, said the organization is committed to paying all parties who are owed money.

Newbo evolve featured musical headliners Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5, and an eclectic mix of speakers, including filmmaker John Waters, fashion designer Carson Kressley and Olympian Adam Rippon.

Tallman told The Gazette this week he has been contacted by four vendors, including representatives for talent, notifying him checks totaling $50,000 had bounced. They told him additional vendors had the same experience, he said.

Tallman said he contacted GO Cedar Rapids to inquire what he should tell the vendors but has not received a response.

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Cathy Garcia, owner of CG Activation of San Diego, said she was hired to produce all speaker sessions over the course of the festival weekend, including talent organization, briefing moderators and coordinating audiovisual needs.

She said she received some reimbursement for travel, but the final check dated Aug. 10, which included her service fee and remaining reimbursement for personal expenses, bounced. She declined to specify the amount.

“I am really unsure what happened,” Garcia said. “Within one week of me getting the check and depositing, the check was returned.”

She said she contacted GO Cedar Rapids but only received a “canned response” promising someone would follow up with her this week. That has yet to happen, she said.

“It’s months of time I spent that I could have worked on a project that could have actually paid me,” she said. “It’s a bit of a set back.”

The Gazette contacted numerous other vendors who said they had been paid in full.

“I think we are one of the fortunate ones,” said Gary Ficken, owner of Bimm Ridder, a Cedar Rapids sportswear company that provided event shirts for staff and volunteers. “We were paid after the event. As far as Bimm Ridder sports wear is involved, it was business as usual.”

GO Cedar Rapids has declined to corroborate whether it issued bad checks, how many were issued or how it happened.

“When checks were issued by the GO Cedar Rapids CEO before his dismissal, the organization had every intention of honoring them,” interim chief executive Jim Haddad said in a statement released by the organization’s spokeswoman. “As we finalize the internal review and financial audit, we will work with vendors to resolve outstanding obligations. It would be inappropriate to comment on specific situations with each vendor regarding their payment terms and how they were selected.”

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Haddad, a veteran financial consultant and former Yellowbook USA executive, was appointed to the interim position on Monday.

Vendors, such as Adia, received a letter from John Myers, president of the GO Cedar Rapids board, on Aug. 21, stating, “We will work closely with you and other parties to find a viable solution for all involved and pay any outstanding obligations. A GO Cedar Rapids staff member will be in touch with you within the next two weeks to make payment arrangements.”

Adia said she was contacted by organizers the week of the festival about providing spa services, including facials, manicures, pedicures and chair massages, after another vendor canceled. Email exchanges provided by Adia show she negotiated a flat fee of $50 per hour per technician, plus mileage and lodging. Adia said her team was also given tickets to the events.

The email exchanges, which were with Tallman and Doug Hargrave, track the early discussion about logistics, Adia’s attempts receive payment and ultimately her threats for legal action when she couldn’t get a response about the bounced check.

GO Cedar Rapids has declined to say what role Hargrave plays for the organization. Hargrave is president of Breakaway Hospitality and a former board member for GO Cedar Rapids. He has a GO Cedar Rapids email address but is not listed on the staff roster.

Tallman responded on Aug. 8 to one of Adia’s early emails seeking payment noting, “We maxed out our cards with the event this weekend and the earliest we could charge on them again will be Friday. We could get a check out by tomorrow.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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