David Binkle, former Chef and school lunch reformer, has been charged with 15 felony counts which range from embezzlement to misappropriation of public funds. Guess that “praise” from former first lady Michelle Obama won’t help you now.
Binkle oversaw the budgeting of hundreds of millions of dollars during his tenure with the implementation of Michelle Obama’s school lunch program. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges levied against him and has posted a $220,000 bail.
Prosecutors allege that Binkle – who railed against childhood obesity with appearances on Tedx Talks – illegally directed about $65,000 of the school district’s funds into his private consulting firm, some of which eventually ended up in his own pocket.
The news report continues:
According to court documents, Binkle repeatedly misappropriated district funds in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 between 2010 and 2014. Prosecutors also allege that he forged an application to become a vendor with the district and failed to disclose outside financial interests.
Binkle, who became known for his use of the phrase “nasty, rotty” food, led the former first lady’s unpopular school lunch reform in the district even as students established their own black market of favorite – albeit “unhealthy” – foods.
In his efforts to implement the school lunch reform, Binkle offered lengthy contracts to providers such as Tyson Foods Inc., Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales, Goldstar Foods, and Five Star Gourmet Foods. Some of the vendors also agreed to annual donations of $500,000 to a healthy eating marketing program in the school district.
Problems with Binkle’s management, however, were noted as early as 2011 by George Beck, a former food-services deputy branch budget director, who reportedly brought his concerns to the district but was ignored and then laid off.
Nevertheless, in 2014, the LAUSD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) accused Binkle of failing to disclose his ownership of California Culinary Consulting or payments from vendors who appeared at school nutrition events.
The OIG audit noted his firm presented “at minimum an appearance of a conflict of interest,” and his marketing program was “being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused” by Binkle, who said he was “frustrated and baffled” by the allegations.
“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,” Binkle emailed the Times. “I am confident the truth and facts will show the allegations are unsubstantiated.”