Leaked documents showed that Fermanagh County Council, Umag and a Belfast-based advertising company were actively involved in a standoff after terminating the work arrangement without notice, which led to the withholding of payment for services.
However, the advertising company appears to have become elusive as council officials have made numerous attempts to contact without success, despite there being an email in March 2021, from a member of the management who, according to the leaked document, has since resigned.
Details regarding the matter have been hidden from the public, with discussions taking place in closed council sessions.
It is understood that a number of options were presented to the members regarding a possible way forward at the last secret meeting.
The Board entered into an arrangement with Archer Advertising to design and place advertisements in local and regional newspapers.
However, in February 2020, Archer Advertising abruptly terminated its services, which led to a confrontation where the board, which at the time owed Archer Advertising £13,800 (excluding VAT), decided to defer payment until a number of matters were clarified. .
Council officials created local newspapers owed a large amount of money to Archer Advertising, much of it related to council advertising.
Last October, a “discharge payment” for Archer Advertising was proposed along with a disbursement of funds to local newspapers, although acknowledging that this may not be without risks for the board.
Prior to that, during 2020, Council officials repeatedly attempted to contact Archer Advertising’s management to ascertain the reason for terminating the arrangement without notice, and sought to remove the Council’s logo from their website.
The Legal Services department also contacted Archer Advertising in December 2020, but they also did not receive a response.
However, last March, an email was received from management member Irwin Armstrong confirming that while he had no role in the council’s account, he was “in a position” to respond to some inquiries on behalf of Archer Advertising.
The termination occurred, he said, because working with the board was “very time consuming, and there seemed to be internal difficulties around obtaining authority to instruct/approve advertisements”.
This resulted in Archer Advertising having to invest additional time that is not recoverable, charging a fee of just 5 percent.
The leaked document says employees are left in stressful situations, become frustrated, and question their work.
The response also disputed the Board’s attempts to contact Archer Advertising multiple times since the termination.
The leaked document informed members that Archer Advertising had a net responsibility position of £187,820, as of October, 2020.
If it goes into management or liquidation, it is not clear whether there are preferential creditors such as secured loans or employees, who are legally entitled to advance payment to unsecured creditors, such as newspapers.
Following Mr. Armstrong’s correspondence, the Board attempted to secure a discharge of monies owed to local newspapers, by offering an option to Archer Advertising to pay the unpaid costs, upon receipt of an undertaking from their attorneys that they would “immediately thereafter discharge all debts associated with the Board’s advertising”.
But Archer Publicity refused, insisting that the council had no authority to obtain such a guarantee, and demanded that they be paid in full by returning the money owed to them by the council.
The legal opinion found that a refusal to pay can be applied only if Archer Advertising has failed to provide the service, or the service has been provided unsatisfactory.
Without fault, there are no legal grounds for dispute.
Members were informed of the termination without notice, but the legal opinion added: “An explanation for this has been provided.”
Officials remained concerned about: “Potential reputational risk [the] Council on non-payment of local companies … local newspapers [have] They highlighted their concerns about the impact of non-payment.
They asked [the] Board considers debt settlement options, reducing payments directly to Archer [Advertising]. ”
The documents show Archer Advertising’s status listed as “active” with the Companies House, and also indicate several changes to the officer over time, who is currently one director.
And while Mr. Armstrong responded to the board last March, according to the leaked document, he resigned in January 2021.
Members were told that Archer Advertising is working with three companies, VisionWorks (Television), VisionWorks (Interactive), and Studio 56.
They all operate from the same building, and the names of those involved are interconnected.
When Council Legal Services personnel contact Archer Advertising, they are constantly told that the company is “no longer trading and the number [dialled] It is for VisionWorks”.
Calls are not returned
According to the documents, no calls have been received so far.
On their website, Archer Advertising is described as providing: “A full-service design and advertising agency based in Belfast, providing design, advertising, television and radio production and associated marketing services.”
Its client base, as evidenced by individual logos, features prominent companies, charities, and several boards, including Fermanagh and Umag County Council, despite requests for their removal after Archer Advertising finalized the arrangement.
Like many companies, Archer Advertising has closed as a result of Covid-19 because it was not considered an “essential service,” but a message on the company’s website indicated an intention to “reopen as soon as possible, subject to any other government announcement.”
This was posted as an “Update” on March 24, 2020, and is still on the website, with no further update added since then.
When Archer Advertising was asked to comment on the confrontation with the board, an automatic response indicated that the recipient was: “Away from the office on extended leave.”
In their absence, there was a letter providing email addresses for three others – one of whom was Mr. Armstrong.
The request was sent to all three, and none had responded by the time of publication.