LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — The once-lauded leader of efforts to bring healthier meals to more than 600,000 Los Angeles school children was charged Tuesday with embezzlement, perjury and misuse of public funds.
David Binkle, 55, former food services director for the Los Angeles Unified School District, pleaded not guilty in L.A. Superior Court Tuesday to 15 felony counts and was released on $220,000 bail.
Binkle funneled $65,000 from LAUSD to a chefs’ club he ran and to his own bank account between 2010 and 2014, prosecutors said.
After joining LAUSD in January 2008, Binkle was suspended in Dec. 2014 , accused at the time of mismanagement and carrying a conflict of interest. He continued to draw on his $152,000 annual salary while being investigated.
He resigned in Aug. 2015 following a scathing audit by the Los Angeles County Office of Inspector General that found over a period of four fiscal years, the district spent $40.6 million more on food — but served fewer meals.
Prosecutors accused Binkle of awarding contracts to organizations he was connected to and failing to disclose income from a private consulting business. He was also charged with forgery for putting someone else’s signature on an application to be a district vendor.
Binkle, who helped reduce fat, sugar and salt in school lunches and touted his successes at a White House event with former first lady Michelle Obama.
At the time of his suspension, he told the Los Angeles Times that he was “deeply disheartened, frustrated and baffled” by his removal.
“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 in an email. “I am confident the truth and facts will show the allegations are unsubstantiated.”
Efforts Tuesday to reach Binkle were unsuccessful, and a lawyer who represented him at arraignment wouldn’t comment.
The Chefs de Cuisine Association of California, which allegedly received some of the money Binkle took, said it was cooperating with law enforcement but declined to comment about its former leader.
If convicted of all charges, Binkle could face more than 13 years in state prison. He was ordered to return to court Oct. 5.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)