|Mark Rivers walking in fron of one of the wooden sheds he had built for vendors on opening day, November 26, 2011, of the Niagara Holiday Market
There is growing evidence that numerous people that did business with Holiday Market developer Mark Rivers were shortchanged, if not outright cheated.
In the wake of earlier reports, two employees of the Market called the Niagara Falls Reporter to say that Mr. Rivers shorted them on their paychecks. One sent copies of her actual paychecks and time sheets to attempt to prove it. One of them was an $8 per hour employee who said she was stiffed on her last check at Christmas time.
In addition, a major Buffalo contractor said he had to chase reimbursements for $1,750 worth of materials for months and that Mr. Rivers “dodged’ his calls. He was ultimately paid by the Conference Center.
Western New York Family Magazine editor and publisher, Michele Miller said Mr. Rivers failed to pay his advertising bill with their magazine, even after repeatedly promising to pay. She sent his delinquent bill to a collection agency.
John Eichel, the construction manager for the project, said Mr. Rivers refused to pay him his full wages, telling him if he did not take less, he would get nothing at all.
John Civiletto of Ice Rink Events, of Conroe, Texas, told the Reporter that Mr. Rivers “shortchanged” his company out of “about $21,000” on the final bill for the ice rink his company built for the Market.
Ice Rink Events is, according to Mr. Civiletto, “North America’s largest portable and seasonal ice skating rink company.” The company did the Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2006 and built more than 50 rinks in North America last year.
Although the contract for the ice rink was “around $120,000,” Mr. Civiletto said. But Ice Rink Events was paid only $99,000 for the on-the-site constructed and rented ice rink. Which raises an interesting point: Mr. Rivers reported he spent $146,000 on the ice skating rink.
What happened to the other $47,000?
“Rivers kept changing the design again and again and then, when it came time for final payment, he disappeared. He refused to pay…. I would never do business with (Mr. Rivers) again. We did not even break even,” Mr. Civiletto said. “But the $146,000 is false. We would never charge that much for a rink.”
Maybe there were extra costs?
“I don’t know. Our company provided pretty much everything: The Zamboni cart, 300 pairs of ice skates and built the rink, provided the chillers. I had a feeling something would happen. We almost didn’t get paid. Rivers wouldn’t return our calls. Then when I’d reach him, he would say, ‘I’ll wire the money first thing on Monday.’ But he never would. Frankly, we don’t want our name associated with shoddy things like this. We would not do any more business with Mark Rivers. We were happy to close the books on it.”
The Reporter contacted Mr. Rivers to pose a few questions on the Market.
Did you think you could make money on the ice skating?
“The intent was not to create a profit,’ said Mr. Rivers. “The intent was to try to create a positive community experience. Hundreds of people skated below costs or for free.”
When asked about various expenses and unpaid bills, Mr. Rivers abruptly hung up the phone and declined to answer or return subsequent phone calls.
|The only tangible assets left after $481,000 of taxpayer money was spent on the Niagara Hoiday Market is 30 barn red tool sheds that served as vendors booths. They now sit at the city corporation yard on New Rd.
According to Mr.Rivers’ report, during the 37-day Holiday Market, the ice rink attracted 366 paying customers, for a total reported income of $6,463. Mr. Rivers reported he spent $146,448 on the rink and the venture lost $138,000 of taxpayer money. 366 people got to skate, but based on the money they paid, skaters paid an average of $18 each.
On top of that it costs taxpayers $398 per skater to skate on the rented rink.
The Reporter contacted Max Kaplan, marketing and sales director of Advanced Production Group whose company did the stage production for all four concerts held for the Holiday Market.
Advanced Production Group is one of, if not the leading stage production company in Western New York, doing by contract all roductions for Art Park, as well as work for the Buffalo Bills, The Buffalo Philharmonic and many other concert venues.
Mr. Kaplan told the Reporter that his company was studying the summary report on the Market. He would not comment on the purpose of his investigation into Mr. Rivers’ report.
How did Mr. Rivers treat your company?
“Well the day before the concert, he was in Boise,” Mr. Kaplan said. “The people that were left did not have decision-making power and he could not be reached.”
Were you paid in full by Mr. Rivers?
“We finally got paid, but not by Mr. Rivers. He disappeared.”
Could you tell me more of your experiences with Mr. Rivers?
“All I can really say is he was extremely hard to do business with, when we were trying to do a job for the community.”
Did you have trouble obtaining payment from Mr. Rivers himself?
“Public records show he cut us a check to keep up with contractual obligations and that check bounced… He basically bounced a check on us and he was in jeopardy of not doing the concert. And he was unreachable. Our company decided basically that ‘the show must go on.’ We did not want the Conference Center, the audience, or the community to suffer for Mark Rivers’ actions. You put the show on. But it was terrible to do business with him. He did not adhere to the contract. If we did not have a good relationship with the Conference Center, those shows would have been canceled at the last minute - because after all, he bounced checks for payment and could not be reached. It would have been ugly for everyone involved.”
From $8 per hour employees to the largest builder of ice rinks in North America, to date, the Reporter has spoken to more than half dozen people, all who had financial dealings with Mark Rivers. It may be coincidence, but every one had some problem getting paid.
Further investigation is required