Some years ago, Drummoyne Club, formerly the Drummoyne RSL Club, engaged the services of Michael Mullins and his entertainment agency Made It Happen Promotions and Entertainment Pty Ltd to book entertainers for the club.
As was the normal practice for most clubs, Drummoyne Club paid the fees for those entertainers to Michael Mullins for him to disburse to them, however a number of entertainers had not received their fees, some for over a year.
After a number of performers complained of non-payment, Drummoyne Club eventually changed the payment arrangements. Although Michael Mullins was removed briefly, he was reappointed as the club's venue consultant, however performer's fees were not forwarded to him for distribution, but were paid directly by the club to those performers.
Prior to the changed payment arrangements, on 03 March 2001, Kerry Leigh's duo, the Cardboard Cutouts, performed at Drummoyne Club after having been booked by Michael Mullins acting as the club's venue consultant. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to obtain his fee from Michael Mullins, Kerry Leigh decided to demand his fee directly from Drummoyne Club, as this venue was the actual employer and therefore was ultimately liable to ensure that such fees were paid to performers.
Kerry Leigh then contacted the club manager Brian Allen, who rebuffed him a number of times and refused to pay the outstanding fee. Kerry Leigh then concluded that that there was no alternative but to initiate legal action against the club and its manager.
Kerry Leigh's grounds for action relied on the definitions in the Entertainment Industry Act 1989 that the club was the actual employer and that although Michael Mullins booked Kerry Leigh, he did so while acting as the club's authorised venue consultant. Therefore regardless whether the club had forwarded the fee to Michael Mullins, if payment was not actually made to Kerry Leigh, the club was ultimately liable.
Brian Allen relied on the concept that because the club had paid Kerry Leigh's fee to Michael Mullins, the club had fulfilled its responsibility and had no further liability. In fact although the club had admitted that Michael Mullins was acting as the club's authorised agent to book entertainers on its behalf, the club's defence was that it had not made any agreement with Kerry Leigh and did not contract Kerry Leigh to perform at the club.
The matter went to pre-trial hearing at Burwood Local Court on 24 July 2002, where the Registrar offered to have the matter mediated. Kerry Leigh consented to this, however upon instruction from Drummoyne Club, the club's solicitor Graham Chegwidden declined to engage in mediation to settle the matter there, but elected to take it to a hearing, which was set down for 04 December 2002. In the meantime, according to industry sources, the services of Michael Mullins were eventually terminated by the club and a new venue consultant was appointed.
On 04 December 2002, the matter went to a hearing at Burwood Court before magistrate Bill Pierce. Kerry Leigh represented himself and Drummoyne Club and Brian Allen were represented by solicitor Graham Chedwiggen. Ziggy Zapata appeared as an Amicus Curiae (friend of the Court). Written witness statements were tendered by both parties.
After hearing submissions from Mr Chegwidden, Kerry Leigh and Ziggy Zapata and reading the various witness statements and other evidence that was tendered, the magistrate found that Kerry Leigh was indeed owed his fee by Drummoyne Club. Magistrate Pierce ruled in favour of the Plaintiff Kerry Leigh and also made a costs order in favour of the Plaintiff. On 31 December 2002, Burwood Court received payment of Kerry Leigh's fee plus court costs.
In reporting on such events, I would normally restrict myself to making no comment. However because of the nature and vital importance of this particular matter and my involvement throughout its course, I feel entitled to provide my own viewpoint in the public interest.
Most people who know me personally and have done business with me will also know that I operate to a very strict set of principles and I run my entertainment agency according to those principles and to the strict letter of the law. I believe that when an entertainer is booked to perform at a venue, he deserves to be paid, provided that he does the job as required.
This particular case was most important because I believed that it was not really about one entertainer failing to be paid for one performance. In fact I had good grounds to believe that many entertainers who were booked to perform at Drummoyne Club by the club's venue consultant Michael Mullins, were not paid for their services, even though the club had allegedly given Michael Mullins their fees to disburse to them. I was personally contacted by some of these entertainers regarding the same situation. I advised them that they had the right to purse the club to recover their rightfully earned fees, but they were very hesitant to embark on a course that would probably end in litigation. They were also concerned that such action would possibly get them a bad reputation in the industry, even though they were doing nothing more than pursuing their rightful claim to be paid for work that they had done.
However in this instance, Kerry Leigh decided that he would not worry about any repercussions in the music industry, but would pursue Drummoyne Club for payment, as he considered quite rightly that he was actually employed by the club after being booked by the club's very own representative. Kerry Leigh spoke to me on a number of occasions about his feelings and that it was a matter of principle that he proceed to recover what was really a trifling sum, compared to the time and effort that would have to be expended to proceed with litigation. I admired his willingness to risk incurring the wrath of agents who would be wary of booking him in the future because of their own shady practices, even though all he was doing was standing up for his rights to be remunerated for a job he had performed, so I decided to assist him in this important endeavour.
The analogy and logic used was very simple, but Kerry Leigh and I found it baffling that Drummoyne Club and Brian Allen did not acknowledge the following example when it was presented to them. Before the introduction of the GST, it was common for a club's cashier to disburse the entertainer's fee. Had that cashier embezzled the fee and absconded, the club would still have to pay the entertainer because payment was not deemed to be made until the entertainer had actually received the fee. Therefore the principle of the transaction was the same, whether the fee was being disbursed by the club's cashier or the club's venue consultant.
Although the various roles and responsibilities of entertainment industry employers such as Drummoyne Club, venue consultants such as Michael Mullins and entertainers such as Kerry Leigh that perform in those clubs are all very clearly defined in the Entertainment Industry Act, the Kerry Leigh vs Drummoyne Club matter is probably the first time that the Act has been legally tested in such a way. In fact this case sets a strong precedent for future actions taken against entertainment industry employers that might consider that their appointed venue consultants insulate them from any liability to pay entertainers their due fees.
I knew at the time that Drummoyne Club and Brian Allen literally had no chance of winning the court action by using the defence that Michael Mullins was actually Kerry Leigh's employer, simply because the Act clearly states that the employer is ALWAYS the end user (the club) and no agent is permitted to be an employer. Thus the party liable for Kerry Leigh's fee HAD TO BE Drummoyne Club. I was completely astounded that the club's solicitor Graham Chedwiggen either did not advise Brian Allen of this very important provision in the Act, or he decided that Kerry Leigh would be unaware of the law, as their entire defence rested on a false premise that was easily pointed out to the court by me.
My impression throughout this whole matter was that Brian Allen and Graham Chedwiggen merely expected Kerry Leigh to run his case on his own, realising that he was very inexperienced in court and would find it difficult to present his arguments before the magistrate. I felt that both of these individual were quite shocked when I stood up at the beginning of the hearing and presented myself to the magistrate as an "Amicus Curiae", literally a friend of the court and proceeded to quote the relevant parts of the Entertainment Industry Act and Regulations and explain the legal issues about the various roles of parties to this Act. Once the magistrate perused the Act and the provisions that I pointed out to him, he could see that he had no choice but to rule in Kerry Leigh's favour.
An interesting and enlightening piece of evidence tendered by Drummoyne Club was the tax invoice from Michael Mullins, showing that Mullins charged the club a venue consultant's fee. What was of even greater interest was the discrepancy between the entertainers fees billed to the club by Mullins and the actual fees that those entertainers had negotiated with him.
Under the Act, a venue consultant is not entitled to claim any fee or remuneration from the performer. If a person acts as both an entertainment industry agent and a venue consultant, that person may only receive a venue consultant's fee. Simply put, a venue consultant is not legally permitted to take commission from an entertainer. This is obviously to prevent double-dipping by agents who otherwise could charge the venue a fee and also take commission from the performer, thus eroding that fee substantially. However having been an agent myself for a long time, I know that this situation is prevalent in the NSW entertainment industry, with many agents doing exactly that - ripping off performers.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that virtually no venue consultants or entertainment agents in NSW fulfil one of the most basic legal requirements of the Entertainment Industry Act, that of informing each party of the details of all transactions, including the gross amounts received from venues to agents, the nett amounts disbursed to performers and the amounts of any commissions charged by those agents. Of course if agents did disclose these details to both venues and performers, they would not be able to get away with ripping anybody off.
In fact I personally know of one performer who demanded such an accounting and was actually abused and threatened by the agent, who refused point-blank to provide the performer with such details. It was eventually discovered that this agent was charging the venue $300 and disbursing $180 to the performer, thus ripping off a whopping 40% commission instead of the maximum 10% allowable by law. This disgusting, exploitative and illegal practice is very prevalent in the entertainment industry in NSW.
In the particular instance involving Kerry Leigh and Michael Mullins, as well as charging Drummoyne Club a venue consultancy fee of $239.80 including GST for the month of March 2001, Mullins billed the club $440.00 including GST for Kerry Leigh. However the fee agreed to between Mullins and Kerry Leigh was $412.50 including GST, a difference of $27.50 including GST. I would not be surprised to find that other entertainers that had actually been paid were not getting the full fee that Drummoyne Club was giving to Mullins to forward to them.
Throughout the running of the case, Kerry Leigh and I had speculated that the real reason that the club had not just paid what was really a trifling fee was that if Kerry Leigh won the matter, all the other entertainers that were owed money by the club on the same basis would then have unshakeable grounds to proceed against the club and recover those fees.
I believe that this was confirmed, when immediately after the matter was finalised and the order was made against Drummoyne Club in favour of Kerry Leigh, the club's solicitor Graham Chedwiggen and its manager Brian Allen approached Kerry Leigh and myself outside the courtroom. A request was made by Chedwiggen for this matter not to be publicised or published, especially on the Internet. As I considered that this whole affair was a matter of the highest public interest, I denied this request utterly and this is the prime reason why this article is still on the website and will remain here.
In light of this court case, I suggest that all entertainers that were booked to perform at Drummoyne Club or any other venues by Michael Mullins of Made It Happen Promotions and Entertainment Pty Ltd when he was acting as their appointed venue consultant, but who have not been paid, immediately submit tax invoices to those venues and demand their fees. In fact I strongly suggest that performers use this method in dealing with any venues whose consultants have not complied with the payment provisions of the Act.
Detailed information regarding the rights and obligations of employers, agents and performers is provided on this website. Click on this link - Entertainment Laws - or click on Entertainment Agency in the Main Menu and select Entertainment Laws in the following menu. Everybody connected with the entertainment industry should make themselves familiar with the laws and requirements governing this industry.
On 30 October 2006, I received an email from Brian Allen, CEO of Drummoyne Club, asking that I remove the article on this page about the matter of Kerry Leigh v Drummoyne RSL Club on the grounds that it was damaging both the club's and his reputation in the community. I replied, refusing to do so on the grounds that it was an accurate reporting of an event in the public domain and more importantly, it was in the vital public interest for the entertainers of NSW and even the general public to have knowledge of this.
I received a response from Brian Allen, saying that he was disappointed and that Drummoyne Club "would be considering its alternatives". I construed that as a veiled threat of possible legal action against me, so I blocked all further emails from him and demanded that future contact be made in writing by letter. That way, I would have hard copy of any threats that he might make, but so far I have not heard any more from him.
In any event, in September 2008, I was informed that Brian Allen was no longer employed by Drummoyne Club. So the whole sorry saga involving this person and the shonky dealings with entertainers is now over.
On 19 January 2009, I received a phone call from Kerrie Wadwell, the manager of Drummoyne Club, asking me very nicely to remove this article, as it was causing her and her staff some embarrassment. I explained that the matter was on my website as a vital matter of public interest and that I would give some thought to removing it. However after much contemplation, I decided that the report was far too important because of its legal ramifications and the fact that it set a crucial legal precedent that affects all performers in NSW.
Therefore the public interest aspect far outweighed any embarrassment that this report might cause to anybody at Drummoyne Club. However in deference to that very polite request, there is now an explanatory note at the top of this page.
On 01 January 2011, I was reliably informed via a phone call to the Drummoyne Club that this venue had been put into liquidation and its doors closed for the final time on 08 January 2011.
This was a sad moment for a club that was once a top-class entertainment venue in the 1970s and 1980s. One can only speculate that a combination of iniquitous government-imposed taxes, competition from hotels and the casino, the economic downturn and the prevalence of other forms of entertainment contributed to the club going broke.
I personally think - and this is only my opinion, based on my dealings with former CEO Brian Allen - that there may also have been a degree of mismanagement that contributed to the eventual demise of the Drummoyne Club. I believe that a forensic audit of the club's operations and financial ledgers from that time would be most appropriate.
I obviously do not have any hard evidence, as I don't have access to the club's records, however I have heard a fair bit of scuttlebutt from various people who have had dealings with this venue and I have no reason to disbelieve them. So this is only my personal opinion and I am entitled to express it.