Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ponte Vedra Company Will Keep Contract; Court: Business Is Sole Printer of Driver's License Handbooks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ponte Vedra Company Will Keep Contract; Court: Business Is Sole Printer of Driver's License Handbooks

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT DIXON

A Leon County court has ruled that a state contract allowing a Ponte Vedra Beach-based company to be the state's sole printer of driver's license handbooks should be continued for an additional five years.

The state agency that distributes the handbooks had tried to cancel the deal with the company, called National Safety Commission, but the court cited stipulations that only allow the contract to be canceled if both parties agree to part ways, or if the company was not performing at a high level, which both sides agreed was not the case.

The contract was set to expire in June, but the company exercised a five-year extension, which it had the unilateral authority to do. When owner Ken Underwood won the contract in 2005, his company was the lone bidder.

In November 2009, the Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles sent a letter indicating it would ax the contract so it could start over with a "clean slate."

Underwood said the only reason the state tried to cancel the contract was because of lobbying from his competitors.

"It did not come as any surprise they were going to cancel this agreement," he said. "Our competitors basically made phone call after phone call."

The contract has been a point of contention with others in the industry because it gives Underwood the exclusive right to print the handbooks. As part of the agreement, Underwood prints the handbooks at no charge to the state but gets to place advertisements for his other companies in the books. He says the arrangement saves the state $4 million over the life of the contract. …

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