Hubbard's preliminary hearing set for Jan. 18

Newport-Mesa schools superintendent says he'll return to work Tuesday.

January 03, 2011|By Tom Ragan,

LOS ANGELES — Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard pleaded not guilty Monday to two felony counts of misappropriation of funds related to his previous job as schools chief in the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

Judge Keith L. Schwartz set a preliminary hearing, where evidence will be introduced, for Jan. 18 in Department 142 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court's Airport branch near Los Angeles International Airport. The case will be heard before Judge Mark E. Windham.

Schwartz released Hubbard, 53, on his own recognizance after Hubbard's attorney, Sal Ciulla, entered the not guilty plea on his client's behalf.


Schwartz told Hubbard that he had until Jan. 14 to surrender himself to the L.A. County District Attorney's office for fingerprinting and booking.

"You can either go with your attorney or go alone," Schwartz said. "That's up to you, but you have to get that done or the D.A. will have you put in custody."

Hubbard's arraignment started Monday morning in the Beverly Hills courthouse. The change of venue took place after Judge Elden S. Fox recused himself, saying that he knew Hubbard and that one of Fox's children had attended Beverly Hills High School.

After the arraignment, Hubbard declined comment but he said moments earlier that he would report back to work in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District office in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.

Public school students in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach returned from winter break on Monday and classes are back in session.

Hubbard's arraignment was overshadowed by Monday's courtroom discussion surrounding the case of his co-defendant, Karen Anne Christiansen, 52, who was arraigned alongside Hubbard.

Christiansen was taken into custody Dec. 27 and appeared in court Monday in a blue jumpsuit, her hands cuffed. The courtroom was packed with many of her supporters and family members.

"He's [Hubbard is] kind of in a back seat because the major allegations pertain to Ms. Christiansen," said Ciulla. "But I really believe the case will get dismissed when all the facts are heard. It's just been a ride to get there."

Hubbard and Christiansen are accused of misusing public funds while both worked for the school district in Beverly Hills.

Christiansen faces six felony conflict-of-interest charges. Prosecutors said she made $2 million as the consultant for the Beverly Hills district, while also earning $113,000 annually as director of planning and facilities, an in-house position.

Hubbard is alleged to have given Christiansen an unauthorized stipend of $20,000 and a $400 increase in her car allowance while he was superintendent in Beverly Hills, according to the criminal complaint.

Hubbard, who is not accused of personally benefiting in the transactions, is alleged to have made out two checks to Christiansen for $10,000 on Feb. 6, 2006, and increasing Christiansen's car allowance to $500 a month on Sept. 25, 2005, prosecutors said.

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