Big Box Watch: Story of a Whistle-Blower

Naples News has an incredibly in-depth article on the story of David Sherwin, who blew the whistle on his previous employer, Office Depot, for allegedly overcharging millions on government contracts.

David’s story is interesting not only for the facts he presented, but the way in which he presented them. Not knowing the best way to put forth his beliefs of the company’s wrongdoing, David ended up sending an explosive letter that cost him his job and downplayed the credibility of his accusations (warning, mild foul language):

What would become his resignation letter, the caustic e-mail, stared at him from the computer screen on his kitchen counter, near a half-drunk bottle of Smirnoff. The vodka helped him escape the obvious: don’t send it.

“I would kick your ass so hard that you would fly across Florida like Tinkerbelle,” read a part of the message, a “Reply All” with company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Odland as the intended recipient.

This, Sherwin said, was his breaking point. He wanted out of Office Depot.

“I actually had the e-mail sitting on my computer, I remember, for probably two hours, staring at it, and I would walk around the room,” Sherwin said. “I would get madder and madder and madder, and then I would take another shot of vodka, stare at it and scowl at it.”

As Sherwin paced, he passed plaques, certificates and photos on his walls and refrigerator — reminders of his successful law enforcement career.

“And then, finally, I just said screw it and I just hit the send button,” Sherwin said. “And at that point in time, I knew it was no turning back.”

Office Depot fired Sherwin a day later for, “workplace misconduct.”

While the entire article is worth a read, I found it particularly great how the story captured the emotion inherent in making such a difficult decision. It also highlights Sherwin’s career as an administrator and investigator, skills which would have made him the perfect whistle-blower had it not been for his ill-fated delivery of the news.

“Because I more or less had a mental snap, I didn’t think things through. Had I thought things through, I would have waited a couple weeks,” Sherwin said. “I would have actually gone to the Attorney General’s office as an employee and they probably would have kept me on, had me wired and stuff like that. But for somebody who did this precipitously, I was able to eventually gather up enough information for them to believe me.”

Regardless of his initial explosion, Sherwin has worked tirelessly to bring word of Office Depot’s misconduct to anyone who might have been affected. Working out of a home office, he sends out emails and is in touch with representatives from all 50 states, 700 countries and numerous government agencies, and he’s not stopping until his story gets out.

“Almost every day he turns around to me and he says, ‘Do you think Office Depot realizes that I’m not ever going to stop and that I’m going to continue until somebody’s in jail or they’re out of business?,’” (Sherwin’s friend Brett) Vining said. “And I keep saying, I say, ‘Yeah, I think they’re getting the idea now, David. I think they’re finally getting it.”

If the number of stories filling my inbox every day is any indication, we’re getting it too, David. Keep fighting the good fight.

One comment on “Big Box Watch: Story of a Whistle-Blower”

  • Pingback:Smart Office » Big Box Watch: Whistle-blower files more claims of Office Depot overcharging

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