AC Transit's chief financial officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four felony counts of grand theft for allegedly taking more than $500,000
from one of Oakland's largest and most prominent churches.
Lewis Clinton Jr., 57, who is free on $100,000 bail, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward on May 28 for a pretrial hearing in his case, which involves allegations that he stole funds from Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.
James Taranto, an inspector for the Alameda County District Attorney's office, said in a probable cause statement that Clinton was board president of two church-run tax-exempt corporations that provide housing and other services to low- and moderate-income people in Oakland.
Clinton also ran a foundation the church created to accept philanthropic gifts.
Taranto said that from April 2007 through February 2013 Clinton used his access to the corporations' financial accounts to divert more than $500,000 to a checking account for Eagle Asset Management, an entity solely owned and controlled by Clinton.
In addition, Clinton illegally withdrew $66,000 from a Wells Fargo account belonging to the church between March 2008 and February 2013, according to Taranto.
Among the funds that Clinton allegedly diverted were $400,000 that the church made from the sale of cellphone tower rights, Taranto said.
Clinton, who has been AC Transit's chief financial officer since 2008 and also serves as a trustee for its retirement board, allegedly used church funds for mortgage payments on his home, tuition payments for private schools for his children, loan payments, personal real estate tax payments, a golf club membership and the purchase of at least one luxury car, according to Taranto.
Bus agency general manager David Armijo has placed Clinton on paid administrative leave indefinitely.
According to the bus agency's website, Clinton has more than 25 years of experience working in the financial services industry, including commercial banking, investment banking and providing financial advisory services.
After charges were filed against Clinton last month, his attorney, Michael Thorman, said Clinton "is a man of integrity and distinction who is highly regarded by those who know him rofessionally and through the church."
"The alleged conduct would be totally out of character for who he is," Thorman said.