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Hubbard says school board knew about car allowance

Newport-Mesa Unified superintendent testifies in his own defense on three felony charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court related to his last job in Beverly Hills.

January 19, 2012|By Lauren Williams

LOS ANGELES — Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard testified Wednesday that racy emails sent between him and a subordinate when he ran the school district in Beverly Hills had nothing to do with why he increased that subordinate's car allowance and gave her a bonus.

Karen Anne Christiansen was a top performer, and he and members of the school board believed she deserved more money, he testified on the witness stand in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Prosecutors have alleged that the attention Hubbard received in a "special relationship" with Christiansen, then Beverly Hills Unified's facilities director, led him to enhance her car allowance and give her bonuses without the legally required school board approval.

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Hubbard, however, testified that he discussed Christiansen's compensation enhancements with school board members in closed-session meetings.

And, he testified, the emails did not indicate a relationship, just inappropriate language that she initiated and propelled, probably because of her professional background in a male-dominated industry.

"Ms. Christiansen came out of the construction area, and I think she had to get along with the boys for many years, and I think her personality reflected that," Hubbard said.

Hubbard was questioned by his defense attorney, Sal Ciulla.

"Did you try to get Ms. Christiansen some extra money so she'd talk dirty to you sometimes?" Ciulla asked.

"No," Hubbard responded, laughing. He smiled at his wife who was in the courtroom audience — a gesture noted by a handful of jurors.

Hubbard said Christiansen's services as a facilities director were in demand and that he and the school board were interested in keeping her on staff. That is why he said he sought to improve her compensation, so he discussed it with school board members who were pleased with her work and knew she took on increasing responsibility in the way of two major projects.

"I felt she was doing a very good job and the board was very pleased with her," Hubbard said. "For a superintendent, it takes a lot of pressure off. If the board is happy, the superintendent is happy, is a way of looking at it."

He also countered a witness' testimony from Friday. The witness had testified that she walked into Hubbard's office and found Christiansen behind his desk, getting up from his lap. Hubbard said that Christiansen did not sit in his lap.

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