Fresno Unified teachers are each getting $150 to buy classroom supplies as part of a $550,000 payout from Office Depot, which allegedly overcharged the school district and more than 1,000 other California government agencies for office supplies between 2005 and 2010.
The school district was one of several agencies statewide, and one of the biggest winners, benefiting from the $68.5 million deal announced this month. Other agencies sharing in the settlement include Tulare County, which is getting $1.2 million, and Kern County, which is getting $960,000.
The lawsuit was filed by former Office Depot employee David Sherwin, a whistleblower who noticed the company charged some agencies more than the discounted price guaranteed to other government organizations. Sherwin died of cancer last year after testifying, a statement from his lawyer said.
Steve Hasegawa, a partner at the Phillips and Cohen law firm representing Sherwin, said Fresno Unified was awarded $887,000 but will only get $550,000 overall since state law gives a percentage of a winning party’s damages to the whistleblower who files the suit. About $337,000 — or 38% of the district’s winnings — will go to Sherwin’s estate, Hasegawa said. Fresno Unified was not a plaintiff in the case, Hasegawa said, noting the district would have received more money had it joined the 19 government agencies that participated in the suit.
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Fresno Unified spokesperson Micheline Golden said she understood from the district’s attorneys that it will be awarded a lesser amount — $442,626. The money was unexpected and the school board “was extremely excited to be able to pass that on to teachers,” she said. The money can be spent on extra paper, classroom decorations or other supplies, she said.
Felipe Lemus, a fifth-grade teacher at Calwa Elementary, said the money, plus about $750 teachers received earlier in the school year for supplies, “is the most money we have ever had in the 18 years I’ve been with the district.”
Fresno Unified teachers often pay out-of-pocket for classroom materials, he said, so the extra money will come in handy when he needs to buy pens and pencils, student journals or awards for good behavior.