Hubbard convicted of two felony counts

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCrimePoliticsInterior PolicyPension and Welfare

LOS ANGELES — Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard was convicted Monday of two felony charges for misappropriating public funds during his tenure as the schools chief for Beverly Hills.

A jury in Los Angeles County Superior Court found Hubbard, 54, guilty of giving to a subordinate $20,000 in bonuses and increasing her car allowance without required school board approval. He was acquitted on a third felony charge that he illegally increased another subordinate's pay.

Just after the verdicts were read, Hubbard appeared stunned and placed a hand on his face.

"I don't know how I can be guilty when there are so many checks and balances," Hubbard told the Daily Pilot shortly after his conviction, adding that "of course" he would appeal.

Hubbard was released on his own recognizance. He faces up to five years in prison at his sentencing Feb. 23, but because he has no prior criminal record, it is unknown whether he is likely to serve time.

He testified last week that he thought other Beverly Hills Unified employees would put the directives to pay the administrator on a school board agenda, and that he told school board members about the payments in closed session.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman said he was pleased with the verdict and called the oversight of public funds "absolutely critical," adding that the jury's decision can serve as a message to others in positions of power.

Hubbard's future running the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, a responsibility he's had since 2006, was not immediately clear. State officials have said that he would likely be allowed to retain his credentials — a requirement of his job description — during the appeals process, but the school board can terminate his contract at will or place him on leave.

Newport-Mesa Unified school board trustees plan to have a closed-session meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday "to take appropriate action," said board President Dave Brooks.

"I really can't believe it, but they're the jury," Brooks said shortly after the verdict was reached.

Brooks, who attended every day of the nearly two-week trial, said the trustees will review the verdict with the district's legal counsel.

A majority of Newport-Mesa Unified's seven-member school board publicly stood by Hubbard throughout the criminal proceedings, allowing him to take more than five months of paid leave so he could prepare for his trial.

Hubbard was first charged in December 2010 in connection with giving Karen Anne Christiansen, former facilities director for Beverly Hills Unified, bonuses equaling $20,000 and raising her monthly car allowance to $500. He pleaded not guilty.

Since that time, the embattled superintendent has faced scrutiny from some in the community, including a vote in November by the district's teachers union that professed no confidence in him.

Evidence in the trial included sexually suggestive email correspondence between Hubbard and Christiansen. Hubbard told the Pilot that he and Christiansen were not romantically linked. Prosecutors did not accuse them of a romance, only a "special relationship."

Christiansen, 53, was convicted in a separate trial of felony conflict-of-interest charges.

In October prosecutors tacked the third felony charge against Hubbard for allegedly boosting the salary of Nora Roque, a former Beverly Hills administrator who now works as director of classified personnel at Newport-Mesa Unified. She has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Hubbard was found not guilty on that count.

If his conviction isn't overturned on appeal, Hubbard will lose his teaching and administrative credentials, and consequently his job. His state pension, which he has been paying into for about 28 years, won't be affected by any criminal conviction. The amount of his pension will be unknown until he applies for retirement, a state pension official has said.

— Staff Writer Britney Barnes also contributed to this report.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitters: @lawilliams30

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