By ANNE BESTON
Auckland Mayor John Banks' allegations of greed and dishonesty against former business partners have not been accepted in a civil case in the High Court.
In a written ruling released yesterday, Justice Geoffrey Venning said he did not accept Mr Banks' "assertions of dishonesty" against Topline directors Jeff and Ben Cook.
"In short, his [Mr Banks'] evidence has not been of assistance to the court in determining the issues before it."
Justice Venning said the mayor had changed his mind about the father-and-son team "in a very short time".
The High Court case was brought by the bee pollen company Cellular Improvements, which alleged that Topline falsely marketed pollen as being treated by a special process said to enhance its health-giving qualities.
Topline filed a counter-claim, saying Cellular tried to pass off its products as Topline's and had breached the Fair Trading Act.
Mr Banks became a director and major shareholder of Topline, run by the Cooks, in 2001.
At first the relationship between the parties was more than amicable; a sworn affidavit by Mr Banks, signed last April, said he regarded the Cooks as "good people to deal with".
But the relationship soured when Mr Banks was elected mayor and 27-year-old Ben Cook accepted a report suggesting Mr Banks' pay should be cut to $25,000.
The suggestion was made because Mr Banks acknowledged that he would not have as much time to devote to the company.
Mr Cook gave evidence that Mr Banks went "ballistic" at the pay cut suggestion.
He told the court last December: "The prospect that he [Mr Banks] would lose his executive salary and his car allowance enraged him.
"A lot of personal abuse ensued and the relationship between Mr Banks and Topline's other directors frankly fell apart."
Outlining Mr Banks' evidence, and his change of heart regarding the Cooks, Justice Venning said the mayor's sworn affidavit did not match up with his subsequent testimony in court.
He could accept that Mr Banks felt let down by the Cooks but did not accept the allegations of dishonesty against them.
"The statements about the fraudulently altered documents, the falsified reports, the secret bank accounts" were shown to be wrong, Justice Venning said.
Topline directors had made a "hard-headed" commercial decision to reduce Mr Banks' remuneration but that did not mean they were dishonest.
Ben Cook had earlier told the court he found it extraordinary that someone he regarded as a close friend and business associate should act in the way Mr Banks acted when he gave his evidence.
Justice Venning ruled that Topline could continue to market and distribute its pollen under the Nature Bee Potentiated Bee Pollen label provided the special process "potentiated" was used.
Cellular could market itself in the same way provided it did not attempt to pass off its product as Nature Bee's.
Costs were reserved.
By ANNE BESTON