“The records you have requested are exempt from disclosure pursuant to California Government Code §6254(f) as they are the subject of an on-going investigation.”
-LAUSD Office of the General Counsel
It has been almost two years since David Binkle was removed from his position as LAUSD’s Food Services Director. A draft audit by the Inspector General found that the food services department was “at a minimum being mismanaged and at worst being consistently abused.” While this draft was “expected to be completed by early summer” 2015, the District still maintains that the investigation is “on-going”.
It has been more than a year since Binkle grew weary of his stay in Food Services Director Jail and retired from the District. However, the facts of the case are still relevant. While the report accused him “of failing to report payments from vendors to attend school food conferences”, Binkle has stated that his “actions were approved and encouraged from senior district officials, general counsel or the ethics office”. These senior officials include John Deasy and Michelle King, who was later promoted to be the District’s Superintendent. If Binkle is, in fact, a fall guy and his actions were approved and encouraged by Deasy and King, why is it that he alone has paid the price?
I have made several public records requests to the LAUSD asking for the documents that could prove Binkle’s claims but have been rebuffed in each case. The latest rejection, dated September 8, 2016, claims that these documents are “exempt from disclosure...as they are the subject of an on-going investigation.” While the California Public Records Act does allow them to claim this exemption to protect an investigation, the District is acting in bad faith if it simply keeps an investigation open to prevent disclosure even if no actual work is being done. It is also unclear why the release of this approval letter would obstruct this investigation. Furthermore, it should be noted that the government code cited by the District does not necessarily “prohibit disclosure of the records it lists, but simply provides that ‘nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require disclosure’” It is a convenient excuse for those in the District who would prefer that the public does not have all the facts.
Ask an LAUSD student how they would improve their education experience and there is a good chance that the subject of food will come up. While he had not brought LAUSD food to the standards of France’s gourmet school lunches, Binkle was at least known for trying to make improvements. It has also been reported that he was very receptive to parent groups who disagreed with forcing breakfast into their classrooms. It is, therefore, the children who paid the heaviest price if Binkle is not the one who should have been removed from the District.
Unfortunately, without knowing exactly what is in the LAUSD files, the public will never know exactly who is to blame. We also do not know who is working behind the scenes to ensure that this information stays locked away, perhaps inspired by the hefty political donations that John Deasy and his supporters inject into the system. This is why the LAUSD must improve its disclosure process and why the second resolution that I will introduce upon my election to the Board will Promote Transparency in the LAUSD.