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Former LAUSD food services head admits forging signature, illegally OKing contracts

Former LAUSD food services head admits forging signature, illegally OKing contracts
David Binkle, former director of food services for the Los Angeles Unified School District, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of conflict of interest and one felony count of forgery and was sentenced to three years' probation and 90 days of community service (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

A former director of food services for the Los Angeles Unified School District has pleaded guilty to illegally approving contracts and forging a signature on a district application.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said David Glenn Binkle pleaded Tuesday to three felony counts of conflict of interest and one felony count of forgery.

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Prosecutors said that he forged an application to become a vendor with the district and failed to disclose outside financial interests.

Binkle was immediately sentenced to three years of probation and 90 days of community service.

Prosecutors say that between 2010 and 2014, Binkle illegally approved contracts in which he had a conflict of interest and forged a signature on a district vendor application.

The violations were discovered in an audit in 2013.

Binkle, a former professional chef, had been hailed as a pioneer among school nutrition advocates for accomplishing a near-herculean task: using produce and meats provided by local growers to greatly reduce the number of fatty meals served in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The LAUSD serves nearly 700,000 meals per day, and Binkle helped lead a charge that saw dishes such as vegetarian curries, pad Thai noodles and quinoa salads replace old cafeteria staples like chicken nuggets and corn dogs.

The initiatives won the district numerous awards, drew praise from then-First Lady Michelle Obama as she led a national push to combat childhood obesity and earned Binkle appearances on Tedx Talks.

Binkle was removed from his position in December 2014 after the LAUSD’s inspector general accused him of failing to report payments from vendors to attend school food conferences and ownership interests in a private food-related consulting firm.

Binkle also was accused of mismanaging the district’s $500,000 annual marketing program, which was launched in 2011 as part of a revamped food contracting system.

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