Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Office Depot billing disputed

TAMPA — Office Depot may have overcharged Hillsborough County $1 million since February 2007.

That's the preliminary conclusion of a report sent last week to Hillsborough County commissioners from internal performance auditor Jim Barnes.

An exact figure will require further analysis, Barnes said. In the meantime, Barnes recommended that the county stop purchasing from Office Depot and, if the figures hold true, seek a refund. Hills­borough piggybacks on a state contract with Office Depot to buy supplies.

Office Depot, based in Boca Raton, has been under fire from governments throughout the country who say it charged them more for products than was agreed upon in contracts.

The city of Clearwater wants a $166,000 refund from Office Depot for overbilling uncovered in an audit completed in October.

An audit in San Francisco determined the company had overcharged that city $5.57 million on an $18 million contract.

The Florida attorney general's economic crimes division launched an investigation of Office Depot in May 2008 for "bait and switch overcharging" of governments, setting low prices for items and then publishing catalog and website information that leads purchasing agents to higher-priced items.

In a statement, Office Depot said Barnes' audit contains "material errors" — and in fact the county was undercharged about $4,246 on sales of about $4 million from February 2007 to December 2009.

A review last year by the Hillsborough County clerk of the circuit court concluded that the county had been properly billed.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White pushed for the audit of Hillsborough's dealings with Office Depot.

"What Barnes has found is consistent with what other governments have been saying all across the country," White said. "The wise thing for Office Depot to do would be to just fess up and admit to their practices and go ahead and reimburse these governments they've been bilking."

Office Depot has blamed the billing controversy on a former employee, David Sherwin, who since being fired from the company has pressed government officials to examine their Office Depot purchases.

In its statement, the company described Sherwin as "a disgruntled former employee bent on promulgating false and misleading information about Office Depot."

Nonetheless, some government officials have heeded Sherwin's advice and in some cases found problems.

An an earlier review, city of Tampa purchasing officials said they saw no issues with Office Depot billings. But now the city's internal auditor is taking a closer look.

"Other localities have found discrepancies, so we thought it was prudent to go ahead and conduct our own audit," said City Attorney Chip Fletcher.

In Pinellas County, Mark Woodard, chief assistant county administrator, told county commissioners earlier this month that a review of Office Depot billings showed no irregularities, but internal auditors at the Pinellas County clerk of courts may take further action.

Times staff writer David DeCamp contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Office Depot billing disputed 04/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. North Korean missile launch may be testing rivals, not technology


    SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's latest missile test Monday may have less to do with perfecting its weapons technology than with showing U.S. and South Korean forces in the region that it can strike them at will.

    A woman watches a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday,. North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile that landed in Japan's maritime economic zone Monday, officials said, the latest in a string of test launches as the North seeks to build nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]
  2. PolitiFact: Fact-checking Samantha Bee on Florida felonies

    State Roundup

    Comedian Samantha Bee traveled to Florida, where she says "retirees and democracy go to die," to shed light on how the state makes it difficult for felons to regain the right to vote.

    Samantha Bee hosts Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Bee portrayed some of Florida’s felonies as not so serious on her show.
  3. For some, Memorial Day comes around more than just once a year


    ST. PETERSBURG — It is shortly before nine on a Friday morning, and the heat is already approaching unbearable levels at Bay Pines National Cemetery.

    Iles carefully digs up the St. Augustine grass so that it will continue to grow when it is placed back on the gravesite. He tries not to disturb the root base.
  4. State budget uncertainty has school districts 'very concerned'


    While waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to approve or veto the Legislature's education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line.

    It has not been easy.

    The unsettled nature of Florida’s education budget has left school districts with questions about how they will make ends meet next year. []
  5. Ernest Hooper: Removing Confederate symbols doesn't eliminate persistent mindset

    Human Interest

    The debate has begun about removing a Confederate statue from outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse, and its removal is long overdue.

    Robert E. Lee Elementary, 305 E. Columbus Drive in Tampa, originally opened its doors in the early 1910s as the Michigan Avenue Grammar School. [Times file]