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Court panel reverses Hubbard convictions

Former Newport-Mesa superintendent had been found guilty of two felonies related to his time with Beverly Hills district.

January 02, 2014|By Hannah Fry
  • Former NewportMesa Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard.
Former NewportMesa Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey… (File photo )

Nearly two years after a jury found former Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard guilty of misappropriating public funds, a state appellate court panel reversed his two felony convictions Tuesday.

Hubbard was convicted in January 2012 of two counts of misappropriating public funds while superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District from July 2003 to June 2006.

The charges stemmed from allegations that Hubbard paid Karen Christiansen, former district director of planning and facilities, an unauthorized bonus and increased car allowance while the two worked for Beverly Hills Unified.

Christiansen's car allowance was boosted from $150 monthly to $500 in 2005. She was also granted a $20,000 stipend in 2006, according to the appellate court panel's 10-page ruling.

However, the three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Hubbard's lawyers, who argued that according to state law, as superintendent, he was not "charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer or disbursement of public moneys," and overturned his conviction, according to the ruling.

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"At trial it was undisputed that both the increased car allowance and the stipend required approval by the district's board of education — Hubbard did not have the legal authority to order them unilaterally," Judge Frances Rothschild wrote in the ruling.

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

Throughout the appeals process, Hubbard's lawyers contended that others in Beverly Hills Unified failed to follow proper protocols when Christiansen's compensation was enhanced. They also asserted that emails between Hubbard and school board members would have absolved him, but the court declined to order the district to recover the communication.

The state appellate court panel did not address those specific issues in the decision Tuesday.

Beverly Hills Unified School District officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

Hubbard joined Newport-Mesa after working in Beverly Hills and was fired in 2012, the day after he was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"He was let go from Newport-Mesa because we were legally required to terminate him," school board President Karen Yelsey said Wednesday.

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