Courts issue civil judgments over financial obligations all the time, mandating that one party pay another party within a certain amount of time.
But, as local photographer David Marlow knows, the fact that you receive a judgment in your favor doesn’t always mean you’re going to get paid.
In early 2012, Marlow provided professional services for the summer issue of the full-gloss, twice-annual magazine Essential Aspen. By mid-August 2012, he was filing a complaint in Pitkin County Court, alleging that the magazine publisher had failed to compensate him for the amount they had agreed upon. At the time, he wanted $18,000, but he later settled on $12,000.
More than a year later, the publisher, Basalt resident Arthur Piubeni, still owes the bulk of that amount and has defaulted on terms of Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely’s May order stipulating timely payments, according to court records.
Marlow said he wanted to discuss his case with The Aspen Times because he’s frustrated that Piubeni hasn’t complied with the court ruling and — despite the ruling in his favor — has no other recourse than to put public pressure on the Essential Aspen founder.
Not only has he not been paid, but there are several other people whom Piubeni, doing business as Round Table Enterprises, has yet to compensate for their work on the publication last year, Marlow alleges.
“I was a little horrified that the legal system doesn’t have any more repercussions than they do regarding someone who can’t follow a judge’s order,” Marlow said. “They told me, ‘It’s up to you. You’re going to have to identify where his accounts are and file paperwork to sequester those accounts.’ People can just blow off a judge’s ruling, and it’s very difficult to take them to task.”
He said he tried to sequester one of Piubeni’s accounts, but it was empty.
“I feel badly for myself, but I also feel badly for the effort behind the whole publication,” Marlow said. “A lot of people worked really hard and failed to get paid.”
Piubeni paints a different picture of the situation, claiming that Marlow has a personal vendetta against him because as business partners in the magazine, they had a falling out. Officially, Marlow is a shareholder in Essential Aspen.
Piubeni admits that he owes Marlow thousands of dollars, per the court order. He said there are others he owes, as well, and that everyone will be paid in time once his fledgling magazine takes flight. The fourth issue of his publication will be released in December.
“He’s really just attempting to put us out of business,” Piubeni said. “The partnership didn’t work out, and there’s some resentment left over from that. We’re considering, at this point, possible legal action to stop the harassment. Everybody who is owed by Essential will get paid.”
Piubeni said his magazine’s fortunes ebb and flow just like any small business. He said his immediate focus is to deliver a high-quality product to the community, and from that, good things will come about.
“I’ve always tried to take the high road on this and solve the problems,” he said. “Every vendor owed is going to get paid because we intend to be in business for a long time to come.”
Piubeni said no one besides Marlow has gone to court to try to get money from him.
“I have clients who are more than four months behind in paying me, but I can’t go to the newspaper,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that to their business. I don’t think it’s ethical, and they are good people, and I know they will take care of me. Maybe not when I want them to, but I trust them.”