City Revokes Company’s Door-to-Door Sales Permits After Arrests


The arrests of door-to-door salespeople on suspicion of prowling and falsifying documents have prompted Camarillo officials to revoke the solicitation permits of a Dominguez Hills cleaning-supply company.

But the president of Austin Diversified Products, which sells Advantage cleaning products, has appealed the city’s decision, saying action should be taken against individual employees rather than the company as a whole.

And company President Nathan Edwards says he believes Camarillo officials just do not like door-to-door salespeople, especially those who are black.


“When you have black salespeople going into a basically white community, you’re going to always have complaints,” Edwards said, adding that 90% of his employees are black and between the ages of 18 and 30.

The workers are recruited from the Midwest in an attempt to remove them from an atmosphere of gangs, drugs or violence, Edwards said. The recruits are then bused to the West Coast and trained. Crews rotate to different sites, where they sell for about six months and earn $350 to $700 per week.

The Camarillo City Council will hold an appeals hearing today to decide whether to uphold the finance director’s decision or to reinstate Austin Diversified’s solicitation permits.

Finance Director Anita Bingham said Tuesday that race had nothing to do with her decision. “I wasn’t told whether they were black or white,” she said. “They’re not complying with our laws and therefore shouldn’t have the privilege of coming into our community.”

A statewide background check on the company by the city attorney’s office recently found that Austin Diversified and its employees were defendants in more than 25 civil and criminal cases throughout California since 1983, including one alleging assault and battery in Contra Costa County in 1992.

The Illinois-based company, which has a regional office in Dominguez Hills, was formed in 1982 and has brought in about $2.8 million in sales taxes for the state, Edwards said. Company workers have been soliciting on and off in Ventura County for about 12 years, he said.


Edwards and his crew have been at Oxnard’s Casa Sirena Hotel since November and are not scheduled to relocate for another three months.

Camarillo officials first revoked Austin Diversified’s solicitation permits in January 1993 after residents complained of aggressive sales tactics, intimidation and abusive language. Bingham again denied applications in December 1994 because of these complaints.

But she began reissuing permits in October.

“We thought we’d give them another chance, but it came back to bite us as you can see,” she said.

Bingham revoked the permits again Nov. 19 after the following incidents:

* Police were called Oct. 31 to Navy housing on Calle La Cumbre after six solicitors allegedly refused to leave, though no-soliciting signs were posted.

* Darron Lee, 26, was booked, cited and released Nov. 12 on suspicion of soliciting without a permit after it was alleged he falsified a permit by substituting his picture on someone else’s card.

The city now embosses its permit cards so that altering them is more difficult.

* Shawnetta L. Bell, 24, was arrested on suspicion of prowling on Regent Street on Nov. 13 when a resident called police after seeing someone “looking in the back sliding-glass door.”


Edwards says the charge was dismissed and was the result of an “overzealous customer.”

* Cecelia Wallace, 39, was denied a permit Nov. 18 after authorities said a background search indicated she had been convicted of theft in Indiana and had an outstanding warrant for parole violation.

But Edwards says he runs background checks on all his employees and that Wallace is no longer on parole.

All employees involved in these instances are still employed by the company, Edwards said.

“I know these people and I know they’re good people,” he said. “You don’t hang a person for making a mistake. There’s such a thing as a second chance, isn’t there?”

Edwards says he has received some complaints from other cities in Ventura County, “but none as severe or as vague as Camarillo’s.”