Lawsuit against new county recorder’s company alleges it didn’t pay PR firm

Adrian Fontes beat out incumbent county recorder Helen Purcell for the position of Maricopa County Recorder, which was called Nov. 15. (Nathan Thrash/DD)

Adrian Fontes, the newly elected Maricopa County Recorder, is part of an ongoing small claims lawsuit against his business, the Phoenix Puzzle Room, for allegedly not paying for public relations services.

Fontes beat out incumbent county recorder Helen Purcell for the position, which was called Nov. 15. Fontes entered into the race after voters faced several hour-long voting lines in April. The lawsuit is against his business, not his campaign, but his campaign was previously receiving PR services from the same business.

The lawsuit alleges that Fontes failed to pay for Champion PR, owned by local businesswoman and plaintiff in the suit, Stacey Champion. Fontes responded to the complaint saying Champion PR failed to properly bring customers to the Phoenix Puzzle Room, an escape room business Fontes owns. The original claim was filed in August for $3,195.93. A decision has yet to be made.

“This is a contract dispute, but unfortunately, this had to go to court,” Fontes said. “It’s just part of doing business.”

When asked about the lawsuit, Fontes said, “the pleadings speak for themselves.”

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Champion declined to comment about the lawsuit.

Champion PR also handled PR services for the Fontes campaign until the end of July. The firm’s work for the Phoenix Puzzle Room continued through the end of June.

Court documents show a text message exchange between Fontes and Champion in which Fontes allegedly texted Champion about a lack of cash flow in the business in June.

“We need to discuss Puzzle Room, our cash flow is shit and we have zero difference this weekend from normal,” the text from Fontes reads. “We were really counting on significant sales from Comicon to boost revenue, but we just can’t continue on this way. Unless there is a giant pile of reservations ready to pour into the business right now, we just don’t have the money to continue our arrangement.”

In response, Champion said the firm distributed flyers with promo codes at 10 downtown hotels and pushed out information. She offered to let Phoenix Puzzle Room out of its contract with a 30-day notice instead of 60, if the last invoice was paid. The summons stated this amount was never paid.

In a response to the original complaint, Fontes said Champion PR failed to properly fulfill services, a claim Champion denied in documents.

In the answer to the original complaint, Fontes alleged Champion PR did not measurably perform its duties under the contract. Fontes wrote misrepresented services injured the Puzzle Room. As part of the response, he asked that the court rule the alleged injuries of Puzzle Room to be equal to the money Champion said is owed and dismiss the suit.

Court documents show Champion allegedly provided proof of work and a no guarantee clause.

The no guarantee clause said, “PPR agrees that fees due to Champion PR are not conditioned upon the results of services provided, nor otherwise subject to discount or negotiation without prior approval of Champion PR.”

The court date was originally set for Oct. 12, but was delayed. According to a complaint about the hearing being moved, Champion accused Fontes of stalling because he was a Maricopa County candidate running for an elected position at the time. Fontes said the election and his campaign had nothing to do with the movement of the hearing.

The hearing is set for Dec. 14 at 1:30 p.m. at the Downtown Justice Court.

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