Texas-based company solicitation tactics questioned

By Julie Fann
star staff

Universal Adcom, a Texas-based company, has been soliciting money from local businesses, then creating a calendar for the upcoming season for the Elizabethton Cyclones.
   Ed Alexander, principal of Elizabethton High School, said area business owners have given money to the company under the false impression that a portion of it will go back to the school's athletic department.
   "Our Athletic Parents' Association has been seeking support from businesses to get a calendar made. They were told that someone had already requested money on behalf of the school. This company shouldn't have a right to solicit money, even if they are giving a calendar," Alexander said.
   Alexander said Universal Ad solicited money from 11 businesses, one of them a church. As a result, he spoke with an investigator with the Elizabethton Police Department, as well as Assistant District Attorney Mark Hill to try to put a stop to the solicitation.
   "I don't know what they've said to these people, but the people thought the money would be going back to the school. It's an unfair business operation," Alexander added.
   Judy Blevins, Superintendent of City Schools, said she has received no phone calls from business owners or any information other than what was given to her by Alexander. "I only know they aren't calling on behalf of the Cyclones. It's unfortunate," Blevins said.
   Mike Curtis, a member of the Athletic Parent's Association for the high school, said he doesn't believe the actual transaction the company solicits is fraudulent, only the misleading information attached to it.
   "I don't think they've done anything fraudulent because 10 businesses paid for a calendar, and they got calendars. But they certainly lead people to believe they are doing it for the good of the athletic department and the football team, when it isn't," Curtis said. "Apparently they do this every year, and they must get the football schedule from some public domain, like a Web site."
   Vice President of Operations for Universal Adcom, Jim Johnson, said his company is perfectly legitimate, a for-profit business simply playing its part in a capitalist society. "We tell them who we are and where we're from and that we are one of the companies who produce posters for the area," Johnson said.
   When asked if his company informs business owners that none of their money will actually go back to the school, Johnson said, "If they ask. I'm not going to talk somebody out of a sale."
   Johnson said the money his company solicits goes toward the production and distribution of the poster itself.
   Dennis Isaacs, who owns Dennis's Barber Shop, was one of the business owners duped by the operation just three weeks ago. "They did this last year. I thought my money was going to the school the way they said it would. I believe the way they stated it, they said they were doing it for the school," Isaacs said.
   Hill said that, due to his court schedule, he hasn't had an opportunity to speak with the investigator who is handling the case. "I can't comment until I know everything. It would be premature for me to say anything about this until I know more," he said.