Lobdell: Hubbard should be placed on leave

January 13, 2011|By William Lobdell

For two years during the 1990s, the Newport-Mesa school board borrowed $47 million annually and put it into the Orange County Investment Pool as way of generating revenue.

The borrowing-money-to-make-money scheme collapsed when the investment pool went belly up in 1994 and the county filed for bankruptcy, leaving the school district in dire financial straits. In addition to the $47 million loan it needed to repay, the district had an additional $33 million of its own money in the high-risk pool.

Steve Marble, then managing editor of the Daily Pilot, thought the school trustees — who had ignored warnings about the danger of the investment pool — weren't busting their tails to make sure the district got its money back.


Instead, Marble wrote in a column — and I'm quoting this from memory, so it may be a little off — saying the school board members acted like "they were cruising down Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible with the top down."

I know that line got under the skin of the trustees because nearly two decades later, they still remind me of it when I bump into them. They say it was an unfair characterization.

Maybe, maybe not. But I do think it's fair to say the school board in the past month has hopped into that convertible again. At a time when it should be placing Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard on paid administrative leave, school trustees seem content to be enjoying a drive down PCH, the radio blasting Beach Boys tunes while the wind whips their hair.

Hubbard should have been put on leave back in early December when Los Angeles prosecutors charged him with two felonies for allegedly giving an illegal bonus of $20,000 to a subordinate. He also allegedly boosted her monthly gas allowance without authorization when he served as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

In his only statement since the charges were filed, Hubbard, who came to Newport-Mesa in 2006, told the Daily Pilot's Mike Reicher on the day the news broke that he was innocent and had no relationship with Karen Anne Christiansen — his facilities director in Beverly Hills, who is facing much more serious charges of misappropriating funds and conflicts of interest — outside of work.

"It's absolutely not true," Hubbard said. "It's an injustice. This is my career. It's just not right. I don't know how I could have anything to do with it."

The president of the Beverly Hills school board didn't buy Hubbard's innocence.

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