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Gay former SJ school trustee sentenced to jail

by Heather Cassell

John Lindner
John Lindner  

Gay former San Jose school board trustee John Lindner was sentenced to 60 days in county jail last week for embezzling nearly $30,000 school campaign funds and misleading investigators.

Lindner, 55, a retired elementary school teacher who served on the Franklin-McKinley School District board in East San Jose since 2004 and was re-elected in November 2016, pleaded no contest in February to grand theft, perjury, and violations of the Political Reform Act.

Pleading no contest is effectively the same as a guilty plea in criminal court.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge found him guilty of taking $28,000 from the Franklin-McKinley for Our Kids - Yes on Measure J 2010 campaign, for which he was treasurer. The money was for personal use, including a $12,000 loan to a relative.

The bond measure, which voters approved, was for $50 million in property taxes to improve the Franklin-McKinley School District's aging facilities. The school district, located on the eastside of San Jose, serves more than 10,000 elementary and middle school students in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

The money was eventually paid back, prosecutors noted to the Mercury News. That was only after Lindner attempted to cover up what he did, claiming that he anonymously donated the funds in small amounts to a variety of community organizations.

"Mr. Lindner betrayed the trust of the students and the schools that he was serving," prosecutor John Chase told the Mercury News. "Jail time reflects the seriousness of stealing from a fund whose purpose was the improvement of education."

The sentencing was the latest installment in the embattled former school board trustee's downfall.

Lindner resigned in February following months of investigation and an ongoing campaign by a small group of persistent community members that repeatedly showed up at the school board meetings and launched a petition for his resignation.

In September 2017, the state Fair Political Practices Commission fined him $18,500 for failing to disclose and itemize expenditures and for using campaign funds for personal use. He paid the fine in October 2017, he told the Bay Area Reporter.

The following month his board colleagues voted to censure him, said fellow gay school board trustee Omar Torres.

In December 2017, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office charged him with grand theft, perjury and violations of the state's Political Reform Act. Lindner turned himself in and was released on $35,000 bail.

In February, he faced the judge.

Following his court appearance, Lindner emailed a brief statement to the B.A.R., "I accept responsibility for the charges brought against me and apologize to the Franklin-McKinley School District community for the actions I took in regards to use of leftover bond campaign funds."

In the email he expressed gratitude to Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Arthur Bocanegra for considering his decades of public service regarding his sentencing.

"I am committed to fulfilling its terms," he wrote.

Lindner will be barred from running for office for the next four years, officials told the media.

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