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School district unhappy with supplier

By Staff | Jan 26, 2010

After a review of transactions between the Lee County School District and Office Depot, the superintendent decided to sever all future business with the supply company.
Former Office Depot worker David Sherwin first exposed a pricing system allegedly used by the company to overcharge government entities nearly three years ago. In the meantime the school district continued to conduct business with the company until Tuesday when Browder announced the district was ending its business relationship.
“I am disappointed that Office Depot was not willing to work with the district,” said Browder. “The district believes there may be other discounts required by the contract and we didn’t receive them.”
The district attempted to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were allegedly overcharged, but Browder said they were “coerced” into signing a document releasing other rights in order to get the refund. And other governments didn’t have to sign the same type of agreement, he said.
Office Depot sent the school district a check this week worth $297,000 but Browder gave the company a seven-day notice Tuesday night. The board also removed an item from the consent agenda to purchase office supplies from four different vendors including Office Depot.
“We have accepted the dollars but I don’t accept their explanation,” said Browder. “I am not going to pay what is owed to them right now until we have done a full audit of those prices and charges.”
The school district is not the only public entity that was allegedly overcharged by Office Depot. Lee County and the City of Cape Coral also paid more than they had to for supplies, according to Sherwin, and other agencies across the United States have cancelled their contracts with the supplier.
“I am encouraging Office Depot, if they want to do business in Lee County, to call me and make it right,” said Browder.
Board Member Robert Chilmonik, who repeatedly asked the board to conduct an audit of the transactions, praised Browder for his decision. But, Chilmonik pointed out that an audit hasn’t been conducted, instead Browder’s decision came from a review of recent expenditures.
“Thank you Dr. Browder, you did the right thing,” he said. “I want to get every penny these people owe us. This is money on the backs of children and that is despicable.”