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Deputy D.A.: Hubbard OK'd illegal bonuses [Corrected]

Defense attorney counters that payments were legal, based on performance and merit.

January 11, 2012|By Lauren Williams

LOS ANGELES — A prosecutor argued Wednesday that Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard used his former position as Beverly Hills schools chief to hand out illegal bonuses and a pay raise to two employees and that he had a "special relationship" with one of them.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly stated that Nora Roque received a bonus. She received a pay increase of about $20,000. Also, her first name was incorrectly stated as Norma.

Hubbard's defense attorney countered that his client approved legal and deserved increases for the employees, and that the relationship in question was professional, not personal.

Hubbard, 54, is on trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court. He faces three felony counts of misappropriation of public funds for allegedly giving illegal bonuses, a pay raise and a car allowance increase totaling $40,000 to two subordinates, Karen Anne Christiansen and Nora Roque, about five years ago while superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

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Christiansen was convicted of four felony conflict-of-interest charges in November, and sentenced to four years and four months in prison earlier this month. Roque, who now works for Newport-Mesa Unified, has not been accused of wrongdoing.

In opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman argued that Hubbard abused his authority in Beverly Hills. The bonuses and pay raise required school board approval to be legal, according to the D.A.'s office.

"We're talking about a public official, somebody who has control over public funds, and someone who should have known ..." Huntsman told the jury. "He knew, or should have known, or [was] grossly negligent in passing out that money."

Defense attorney Sal Ciulla argued that Hubbard gave the OK to approve the bonuses and pay raise based on merit.

Christiansen "earned it," Ciulla said. "There was never any attempt to hide it from the (school) board."

Melody Voyles, who worked in payroll, testified that she recognized the memo from Hubbard's office that said, "Please note that Ms. Christiansen is to receive a $20,000 stipend. Thank you."

The memo had Hubbard's initials but not Roque's, who worked in human resources, or those of then-Assistant Supt. Sal Gumina.

Roque at the time of her pay raise was working in a coordinator position at Beverly Hills Unified, but was paid as a director, Huntsman said.

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