Office Depot's Alleged Bilking of City Led To ... Calendar Shortage?

This calendar is late, too...
After last week's article, a surprising number of readers contacted us querying where they, too, could obtain a San Francisco Public Defender calendar. Well, why not drop in at 555 Seventh Street? You don't even need to be accused of a crime first.

If Public Defender Jeff Adachi printed out a few more copies, however, he could have fulfilled a real need here in San Francisco. The query "Where's my damn calendar?" was somewhat ubiquitous this month among city employees. Due partially to the repercussions of the city accusing Office Depot of bilking San Francisco out of $5.75 million, many city workers didn't get their official calendars until mid-month.

Naomi Kelly, the city's purchaser, acknowledges that the delays had something to do with San Francisco "changing vendors" of the calendars -- massive, unadorned wall calenders conveniently stamped with pay dates and other city-specific information you'll find in nearly any government office here. But, she says, that delay isn't necessarily due to the city controller's audit that charged Office Depot with overcharging the city -- and led to San Francisco dropping vendor Office Depot like a hot calendar.

Anytime the city changes vendors you get "little hiccups," like two-week late calendars Kelly says. In this case, the city shifted its office supplies contract to Staples; rather than put the contract out for a full bid, San Francisco simply agreed to pay the same prices for office goods that San Diego hammered out with Staples in its city pact.

This contract was going up to bid late last year regardless of Office Depot's alleged criminality, Kelly said. It's quite possible the city's office supplies deal would have gone to Staples or even Office Max even if this situation hadn't erupted with Office Depot. And when you switch vendors in December, oftentimes calendars aren't ready in January. That being said, if Office Depot had retained its contract, it's a good bet there wouldn't be "little hiccups" such as calendars arriving several weeks late. And it was guaranteed Office Depot wouldn't retain the contract once the city alleged it had been skimming millions.

When asked if the city's new contract with Staples was cheaper or costlier than the prior one with Office Depot, Kelly said it's too early to tell. "When you have catalog pricing, you don't exactly buy the same thing every year."

Fair enough -- but if Office Depot was doing what the city claims it was, well, that's some savings right there. Meanwhile, the City Attorney's office told us that, this week they'll be sending Office Depot an official letter demanding legal costs and other reimbursements related to the alleged bilking.

Mark it on your calendars, if you've got one. 

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