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ANG Newspapers accused of 'Best of' contest fraud; Ex-advertising director claims he uncovered 'hoax'

Sept. 10, 2004

By the Pleasanton Weekly

A former advertising director has filed a lawsuit against ANG Newspapers, publisher of the Tri-Valley Herald and other newspapers, and two of its former executives claiming that their “Best of” awards competition “was for years a massive hoax.”

In his complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, David Marin states that he was fired in March 2003, allegedly for reasons not related to the “Best of” contest, but less than a year after he was promoted to Director of Advertising at ANG and uncovered the deception.

The lawsuit, filed by Attorney David Hosilyk of the Half Moon Bay law firm of Fine, Boggs, Cope and Perkins, names as defendants ANG Newspapers, Michael Lynch and Colleen Brewer. Lynch was Executive Vice President of Advertising and Marketing for ANG Newspapers, and Brewer was the company’s advertising executive responsible for handling the “Best of” contest. Neither Lynch nor Brewer is now employed by ANG.

Marin states that before he took over as Advertising Director, “the readers, the public and advertisers were being defrauded.”

“The true winner of the poll would not necessarily be awarded the ‘Best of’ designation, but rather the business that spent the most, or was likely to spend the most on advertising was given the award instead,” the lawsuit states. “This resulted in false advertising and a fraud being perpetrated on advertisers, readers and the general public for the personal financial gain of Brewer and the financial gain of the other defendants.”

Marin states in the complaint that ANG Newspapers “defrauded the general public, readers (consumers and subscribers) and advertisers by rigging the results of the ‘Best of’ poll” and that its action “constitutes unfair and/or fraudulent business practices.”

The lawsuit also claims that when Marin became Advertising Director, “he ended this fraud upon the public, insisting that his department would run an honest ‘Best of’ contest.” However, Marin believed that his repudiation of Brewer’s past practices caused her to feel animosity toward him and was a motivating factor in his termination the following year.

Marin also claimed that Lynch, as well as ANG and its managing agents, was aware of the fraud and “condoned it and ratified it.”

The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering ANG Newspapers “to cease engaging in unfair and/or deceptive business practices and should be ordered to publish retractions and announcements of its fraud and to publish the true winners of the ‘Best of’ contests.”

John Schueler, ANG’s president and publisher, said there is no basis for Marin’s suit and his comments are without merit.

“We’ve been doing ‘Best of’ for quite a number of years,” Schueler said. “It’s a fair and unique program and his (Marin’s) allegations that winners are picked solely because they’re advertisers does not appear to be true at all. The documentation I’ve seen show that many of the votes that came in were counted by a third party and that there were winners who were not advertisers.”

(c) 2004, Embarcadero Publishing Co.

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