School board seeks advice

(Kent Treptow |

COSTA MESA — The Newport-Mesa school board plans to meet in closed session at 6:30 p.m. Monday to discuss two felony counts filed this week against Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard.

The charges, filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney, concern Hubbard’s performance in his previous job as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

Decisions on the matter could range from administrative suspension to “business as usual,” Newport-Mesa Board of Education President Karen Yelsey said.

The criminal charges came as a surprise to school board members, Yelsey said.

“We didn’t hear that there would be any kind of indictment,” she said. “We heard he’d done some depositions up there, and we thought he was done. Beverly Hills has their own issues, and he explained some of that to us, and we were totally supportive.

“It was just kind of in passing when he told us in a personal setting. We were in a closed session meeting and he told us that he had to take off and that he had to go to Beverly Hills.”

Prosecutors charged Hubbard on Thursday with two counts of misappropriating public funds.

He allegedly gave an unauthorized stipend of $20,000 to Karen Anne Christiansen, then-director of planning and facilities with the Beverly Hills Unified School District, according to a criminal complaint.

He also allegedly gave her an increase in her car allowance not authorized by the school board, the complaint said.

Hubbard, 53, was hired as Newport-Mesa’s schools chief in July 2006, has not been arrested in relation to offenses prosecutors allege took place between Sept. 25, 2005, and February 2006.

He could end up surrendering at the Los Angeles County Superior Court at the time of his arraignment, which has not yet been scheduled, said Jane Robison, a D.A. spokeswoman.

His recommended bail is $50,000.

Christiansen, 52, lives in Las Vegas and attempts are now being made to make sure Hubbard and Christiansen appear together in court. She is expected to be extradited to Los Angeles. She could not be reached for comment.

Christiansen left the Beverly Hills Unified School District more than a year ago, according to a Beverly Hills schools administrator, Alex Cherniss, who in a Friday telephone interview said he discovered the unauthorized expenditures.

“I was the director of human resources when it all went down,” said Cherniss, who is now assistant superintendent of business services, “but I’m not at liberty to discuss anything because it’s all under litigation.”

Hubbard strongly denied the allegations in an interview with the Daily Pilot Thursday night outside his condo near Fashion Island.

“It’s absolutely not true,” Hubbard said. “It’s an injustice. This is my career. It’s just not right. I don’t know how I could have anything to do with it.”

If convicted, he could face prison time, but that appears unlikely.

“It’s a maximum of five years, but if somebody doesn’t have a criminal history, oftentimes they’ll get probation and restitution,” Robison said. “But the possible maximum is five years in prison because it’s a felony, and it’s two charges of misappropriation.”

Hubbard, who’s divorced and has three children, told the Pilot that he did not have a relationship with Christiansen outside of the workplace.

Hubbard could not be reached for additional comment Friday at the district office or at home.

“He’s off-site and attending some meetings,” Norma Crosby, a district employee, said. “He may come back later, but I’m not sure.”

Meanwhile, as the legal procedures play out, the seven-member Newport-Mesa school board is taking steps to figure out how to address the allegations against Hubbard, whose three-year contract was recently renewed this summer.

Hubbard is said to be retaining a personal attorney.