EMERYVILLE – The former superintendent of the Emery Unified School District, who resigned two years ago leaving the three-school district with more than $2 million debt, has pleaded no contest to felony criminal charges filed against him.
The plea comes as a result of an agreement signed Friday that will force J.L. Handy, 62, to give up his teaching and administrative credentials, Alameda County prosecutor Jeff Stark said.
Handy, who pleaded no contest to two counts of misappropriation of public funds for allegedly using his school district credit card for personal expenses and one count of violating state conflict of interest laws for giving a contract to his girlfriend, will appear in court for formal sentencing on Sept. 5.
At that time, Handy will be forced to pay nearly $32,000 in restitution, or face four months in the Santa Rita Jail, Stark said. Handy will also receive five years of probation.
Handy resigned from the district in October of 2000, after the Emeryville Board of Education placed him on administrative leave amid allegations that he had charged several personal expenses, including a box of cigars, automotive repairs and hotel and travel expenses, on the district's tab.
After Handy left, state legislators decided to take over the financially unstable school district. Last year, Emeryville residents voted to recall the entire Board of Education sitting at the time of Handy's tenure.
Handy came to Emeryville from Compton, where he was fired from that city's school district after running up a $5 million debt. Compton's school district is now under state control as well.
Harold Rosenthal, Handy's attorney, was not available to comment.
In the past, Rosenthal has conceded that his client had poor management skills, but has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
But Stark, a senior deputy district attorney, said Handy's actions were, in fact, criminal.
“It's stealing,” Stark said. “Plain and simple.”