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Printer company files lawsuit against OSU

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An office-company filed a lawsuit against Ohio State, saying the university wrongly awarded a potential $24 million printer and copier contract to a competitor.

Modern Office Methods filed the lawsuit on Sept. 26 in the Court of Claims, requesting that OSU set aside its recently awarded contract with ComDoc, Inc. and rebid it.

According to the documents, Modern Office Methods said a ComDoc employee met with an OSU employee, unknowingly to the other top-two competitors, Modern Office Methods and Gordon Flesch Co.

“Bill Matthews, a ComDoc representative, held unapproved closed-door meetings with OSU’s Debie Gill-Parks during the Request for Proposal process, which should have disqualified ComDoc from the RFP,” according to the lawsuit claim.

An RFP is a request for proposal.

Gill-Parks did not respond to The Lantern’s emails.

OSU began taking proposals Jan. 19 and gave the 40-month-long contract to ComDoc on Aug. 31.

Charles M. Miller, Modern Office Methods’ lawyer, said the contract is worth $4 million per year, and $12 million for the initial three-year contract. The contract could be renewed after that, for three years totaling $24 million.

“Copier contracts are subject to periodic renewal or rebidding,” Miller said. “In the suit, MOM alleges that the latest round of rebidding was not a truly competitive process because OSU was holding improper discussions with the winning bidder that resulted in a contractor very different from the bids.”

Miller said that Modern Office Methods just wants the chance to rebid the actual contract.

“Everyone got to submit bids for apples, but only the winner got to price oranges,” Miller said.

The main differences, Miller said, between the proposed bid and the actual contract OSU agreed to with ComDoc are:

• The contract now requires that all OSU schools, campuses and departments participate where, under the bid, each could opt out

• OSU now guarantees a minimum 12-month placement for each copier (under the bid, there was no guarantee)

• OSU now guarantees a minimum cash flow per machine (also no guarantee under bid)

• The contract is now 40 months instead of 36 months

“These changes make the contract more attractive to the vendor, and thus vendors would be willing to submit lower bids,” Miller said.

Miller said Gordon Flesch also filed a formal protest against OSU. OSU did not respond to the protests, so Modern Office Methods chose to file a suit, Miller said.

Tom Flesch, CEO of Gordon Flesch, did not respond to phone calls from The Lantern.

University spokesman, Jim Lynch, said OSU is unable to discuss the specifics of the lawsuit at the time.

“The university stands by its process for selecting a new vendor for the university’s print and copier services. It is not Ohio State’s policy to discuss specifics of a lawsuit,” he said in a statement to The Lantern. “However, the university expects that once the facts are known by the court, the university’s administrative actions and decisions will be upheld.”

ComDoc also did not respond to multiple calls from The Lantern.

Trial for the lawsuit is set for Oct. 19 and 20, according to court documents.

Modern Office Methods has upheld a contract with OSU for some 20 years, and its machines currently comprise about half of all OSU copiers.

“MOM greatly appreciates its relationship with the university,” Miller said. “MOM just wants a fair process, something the entire university community supports.”

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