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Florida district cancels contract with office supply company

Lee County (Fla.) school superintendent James Browder has cancelled the district's purchasing contract with Office Depot after administrators were unable to resolve a dispute from a previous contract involving overcharges.

The dispute stems from purchases between June 2006 and January 2009, when the company had switched the Lee County district to a pricing plan that ended up being more costly. A letter from the company states that "our records indicate that [Lee County] confirmed your desire to remain on the [new] price plan." However, district officials say they never consented to switch pricing plans.

"They could provide no documentation that we agreed to that change," says Joe Donzelli, district communications director. "The superintendent was disappointed in Office Depot's unwillingness to remedy the issues."

Although Office Depot disputed the district's position that it never agreed to the pricing plan switch, the company did agree to refund $297,000, the extra amount Lee County paid because of the switch. In paying the refund, Office Depot required the district to promise not to pursue additional refunds.

District administrators believe they may have been entitled to more refunds, but because of the company's unwillingness to cooperate with the district, they decided to take the $297,000. "It's better than nothing," says Donzelli.

Lee County also is withholding about $80,000 in payments due to Office Depot until it can determine if the company owes it more money.

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