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Lobdell: Hubbard hole just getting deeper

January 17, 2011|By William Lobdell

My best friend once advised me, "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging."

I wish the Newport-Mesa school board would take that to heart.

It's with bafflement that I — along with a growing number of parents, teachers and residents — watch the trustees dig themselves deeper into a hole (which now appears to be about halfway to China) over a misplaced sense of loyalty to Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard.

And the shoveling hasn't stopped.

In December, Hubbard was charged with two felonies stemming from when he was chief of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Prudence would normally dictate that any superintendent — no matter how beloved and trusted — who faced two work-related felonies should be put on paid administrative leave until the case was resolved.

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Doubt it? Then imagine a school principal being charged with two felonies for misappropriating money from his last school district. Would he or she remain on the job or be put on paid leave until the matter was resolved?

But the school board decided to keep Hubbard on the job. Even so, the hole they first dug was small.

The community was inclined to cut Hubbard and the school board some slack. Maybe the Beverly Hills school district had some sort of vendetta against Hubbard. Maybe the Los Angeles County district attorney's office was overzealous.

Or maybe (and this is where I'd put my money if Hubbard is innocent) the Hubbard charges were a way to gain his cooperation for prosecuting the real target: his former facilities director who allegedly took a $20,000 unauthorized bonus and increased car allowance from Hubbard in addition to allegedly double-dealing to the tune of $2.2 million.

In Newport-Mesa, Hubbard declared his innocence, and the trustees — likely privy to additional facts about the case — decided to do nothing. Though the move was unorthodox, no one raised a fuss, figuring the school board had made an informed decision.

The hole grew deeper last week when the Orange County Register published sexually sophomoric e-mail exchanges between Hubbard and then-Beverly Hills Unified School District Facilities Director Karen Anne Christiansen. The too-friendly chat that included joking references to erections, orgasms and oral sex would give any human resources manager or employment attorney instant heartburn.

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