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School board president believes Hubbard is innocent

Walt Davenport calls the charges against the superintendent 'trumped up.' Hubbard returns to work Tuesday.

July 04, 2011|By Britney Barnes, britney.barnes@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — The school board president said Friday that he believes the embattled Newport-Mesa schools chief will be vindicated.

"I don't believe he will be found guilty," school Trustee Walt Davenport said.

Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard is slated to return to work Tuesday following a five-month paid leave of absence. Hubbard requested the leave, which was granted by the school board in January, so he could prepare for his criminal defense on two felony charges in Los Angeles County.

Davenport said he knows what the charges against Hubbard are and what a superintendent can and can't do without board approval.

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Knowing this, he said he doesn't think Hubbard could have committed a crime.

"I think the whole thing is trumped up," he said.

Hubbard, 54, is accused of two felony counts of misappropriating funds while at his previous post as Beverly Hills Unified School District's superintendent.

Without school board approval, he allegedly gave $20,000 to former Beverly Hills Unified facilities director Karen Anne Christiansen, when he was superintendent there. He is also accused of illegally increasing her car allowance.

Hubbard has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

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

Hubbard is tentatively scheduled to stand trial on felony charges in mid-August after Christiansen's trial concludes.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles do not believe the charges were trumped up.

"The district attorney's office filed this case on the evidence collected during the investigation," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney. "The charges were found to be sufficient by a magistrate at a preliminary hearing. The defendants were ordered to stand trial on the charges…It will be up to a jury to determine the guilt or innocence."

There is not unanimity on the Newport-Mesa school board. Trustee Katrina Foley, an attorney, is the only member of the school board to vote against giving Hubbard a paid leave of absence in January.

"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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