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Hillsborough may investigate Office Depot's billing

TAMPA — Hillsborough County could be the latest government to investigate whether Office Depot has overbilled for office supplies, if Commissioner Kevin White gets his way.

Officials in at least four states have accused the office supply giant of overcharging for basic workplace materials. Based on that, White thinks the county's internal performance auditor, Jim Barnes, should take a look to see if that has happened here.

"We're in a position where we're losing money left and right," White said, speaking of the economy. "If we can do whatever we can to capture or recapture any overpayment due to potentially deceptive practices by Office Depot, we need to do whatever we can."

White will take the matter to fellow commissioners on Dec. 17.

The Florida Attorney General's Office already is investigating the situation, based in part on claims from former Office Depot employee David Sherwin of Fort Myers. Sherwin has been e-mailing and faxing state and local governments across the country with his allegations for months.

Attempts to reach a spokesman for Office Depot late Wednesday weren't successful.

Office Depot has said Sherwin's complaints are "completely false and without merit" in prior statements. The company has said Sherwin was fired in April for workplace misconduct.

An initial report by Hillsborough's auditor notes that California, North Carolina, Nebraska and Georgia have each accused Office Depot of overbilling, and in some cases taken punitive action.

Florida purchases office supplies from Office Depot through a consortium know as the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance. Hills­borough purchases supplies under the same agreement.

The Attorney General's Office is investigating alleged "bait and switch" practices in which prices are set for certain core office supplies but state and local government officials are then steered to higher-priced substitute items.

Hillsborough may investigate Office Depot's billing 12/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 11:01pm]
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