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Hubbard to return to work Tuesday

Newport-Mesa schools chief has been on paid leave for about five months.

June 30, 2011|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer,…)

COSTA MESA — Newport-Mesa's embattled superintendent is slated to return to work Tuesday after being on paid administrative leave for more than five months, officials said.

Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard will reassume his duties overseeing the Newport-Mesa Unified School District after requesting via email Jan. 23 to be put on paid leave so he could concentrate on his defense against his two felony charges, school board President Walt Davenport confirmed.

"He was busy with his defense before," Davenport said. "He has time now to come back."

Hubbard has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of misappropriation of funds while serving as Beverly Hills Unified School District superintendent.

In closed session Jan. 24, the school board approved Hubbard's request for paid leave with a 6-to-1 vote. Trustee Katrina Foley dissented.

Hubbard has been collecting his salary, about $25,497 a month, since then.

"I don't know what's changed, but I guess if we're going to pay him he should do his work," Foley said Thursday.

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Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus on Wednesday tentatively scheduled Hubbard's trial to begin Aug. 15, but the date is contingent upon the trial of his codefendant, Karen Anne Christiansen, finishing first.

Davenport said Hubbard will likely use personal days when the trial begins. Neither Hubbard nor his lawyer could be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Hubbard's return comes two business days after the expiration of district Deputy Supt. and Chief Business Official Paul Reed's temporary contract to fill in for Hubbard.

Reed has served as acting superintendent since Hubbard went on leave. Reed was officially empowered by the school board March 22 with the responsibilities and authority of the superintendent position.

Reed's responsibilities also came with a pay bump — retroactive from Feb. 16 — of about $5,260 a month to match what Hubbard earns. He was only authorized to fill the position until Hubbard returned to work, or Thursday, whichever came first.

Davenport said the school board expected Hubbard to have finished with the trial before now.

In a Los Angeles court Wednesday, Hubbard's lawyer, Salvador P. Ciulla, brought up the delay.

Ciulla said his client could be fired if he isn't cleared of charges before school resumes in September.

Davenport called Ciulla's assertion a "legal strategy," but declined to comment when asked if there was any feeling on the board that Hubbard should lose his job if his trial isn't over by September.

Hubbard, 54, is accused of giving $20,000, without school board approval, to Christiansen, the former Beverly Hills Unified facilities director, when he was superintendent there. He is also accused of illegally increasing her car allowance.

Christiansen, 53, also pleaded not guilty to multiple felonies of conflict of interest and misappropriating funds. She is expected to stand trial Aug. 4.

—Lauren Williams also contributed to this report

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