Former Schools Food Services Director Accused of Diverting Dollars to Culinary Club Pleads Not Guilty

David Binkle denied wrongdoing after he was placed on administrative leave in December 2014

The former director of food services for the Los Angeles Unified School District pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of misappropriating public funds and embezzlement for allegedly diverting $65,000 in district money to a culinary club he controlled and to his personal bank account.

David Binkle, who also allegedly forged a district vendor application and failed to report his outside financial interests to the district, resigned from the LAUSD in 2015 following a critical audit of the food services program.

Binkle's bail was set at $220,000, which he was expected to post. He's due back in court Oct. 5, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial.

It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

Binkle, 55, was charged Aug. 2 with three counts each of misappropriation of public funds by a public officer, embezzlement of public funds and conflict of interest, along with five counts of perjury and one count of forgery. He faces up to 13 years and eight months in prison if convicted.

He originally joined the LAUSD as deputy director of food services in 2008 and became food services director in 2012, with a salary of $152,000 a year.

In 2014, the district's Office of Inspector General released an audit in which Binkle figured prominently. The audit found that Binkle had a cozy relationship with contractors, some of whom paid for him to stay at hotels and to fly to a conference in exchange for more lucrative contracts with the district.

According to the district, Binkle also failed to report his ownership of a food-based consulting business.

In February 2015, Binkle denied wrongdoing, saying in an email to the Los Angeles Times he was "deeply disheartened, frustrated and baffled" when he was placed on administrative leave in December 2014.

"I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide since my actions were approved and encouraged from senior district officials, general counsel or the ethics office," he wrote. "I am confident the truth and facts will show the allegations are unsubstantiated."

LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said Tuesday that Binkle's resignation came on the heels of an internal audit that "found incidents of inappropriate spending, mismanagement, contractual issues and ethical breaches within the Food Services Division. The district subsequently tightened financial controls and revamped the procurement process."

"While recognizing that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the charges against Mr. Binkle are extremely upsetting as they do not reflect the professionalism, ethics and character we expect of all L.A. Unified employees," Haber said. "We will continue to cooperate with and support the District Attorney's Office as it prosecutes these charges."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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