LAUSD ‘Food Guru’ Temporarily Suspended, Accused Of Mismanagement

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — David Binkle was known as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s “Food Guru.”

For the past five years, he was the go-to guy for ideas on nutrition and praised for bringing for healthy food to students. His work even garnered the attention of first lady Michelle Obama.

So why is Binkle, formerly known as the director of food services for the LAUSD, not working?

KCAL9’s Peter Daut looked for answers behind Binkle’s suspension.

The LAUSD’s inspector general has accused Binkle of mismanagement and a conflict of interest.

The LAUSD issued a statement that said, in part: “Binkle has been temporarily reassigned pending the conclusion of an internal investigation into a confidential personnel matter.”

While Binkle, 52, is adept at cutting the fat in meals, the LA Times reported the inspector’s office accused him of mismanaging a $500,000 marketing program. It also said he failed to report payments from vendors to attend school food conferences as well as failed to disclose an ownership stake he had in a private food-related consulting firm.

Binkle has denied wrongdoing, saying in an email that he was “deeply disheartened, frustrated and baffled” by his removal Dec. 4.

“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.”

The Times says he has been ordered to remain at home while continuing to draw his $152,000 yearly salary until a decision is made about his fate.

Binkle, a professional chef, joined the district in January 2008. He was credited almost immediately for cutting sodium and fat from the school diet, as well as establishing a breakfast and supper program and increase the number of meals served.

The district says the investigation is likely to wrap up in late spring or early summer.

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