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The filing of the lawsuit comes after an investigation by the Attorney General's Public Integrity Unit, and after the issuance of an audit by the Erie County Comptroller. The comptroller's audit identified significant overcharges in the county's furniture contracts.

Lawyers for the Public Integrity Unit analyzed documents obtained in the case and conducted a series of interviews in recent weeks. State lawyers also met with lawyers for both the company and the county on May 7th.

On May 10th, a private law firm hired by the county announced a similar lawsuit against the furniture vendor. However, by law, the county's action "is transferred to and becomes absolutely vested" in the state upon commencement of the state's action.

Spitzer said he appreciated the fact that the county had taken action, but he maintained that the state is best suited to handle the matter. In addition to saving the county legal fees, the involvement of the Public Integrity Unit, which has a lengthy record of investigating procurement fraud across the state, ensures an arms'-length handling of the matter.

Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra said: "To protect taxpayers, we need the most appropriate public attorney to pursue this matter. I have been advised that the Attorney General's lawsuit seeks the same relief as the lawsuit Erie County already filed. I have therefore instructed the Erie County Attorney to withdraw the county's lawsuit. A court will decide the facts of this case fully and fairly."

The investigation and lawsuit are being handled by Carrie H. Cohen, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Public Integrity Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Alvin Bragg. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced a lawsuit against a Buffalo company alleged to have overcharged Erie County by more than $500,000 on contracts for office furniture.

The lawsuit against Buffalo Office Interiors was filed today in State Supreme Court in Buffalo. The suit seeks recovery of the overcharges and unspecified damages for the county.