COSTA MESA — Trustees with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District met behind closed doors Monday night to discuss the recent felony charges filed against embattled Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard.
Hubbard, who was charged last week with misusing public funds four years ago as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, plans to take the week off, the last before Christmas break, it was learned late Monday. He remains superintendent of Newport-Mesa schools.
No reportable action was taken, board President Karen Yelsey told the press after the emergency meeting at district headquarters.
The board’s legal counsel, Spencer Covert, was present throughout the meeting, but little was known regarding what was said during the closed session.
By law, nothing has to be disclosed because it’s a personnel matter, district spokeswoman Laura Boss said.
Paul Reed, deputy superintendent of business and chief business official, will be in charge of the daily operations in Hubbard’s absence for the next four days, Boss said.
Reed assumed those duties earlier in the evening by swearing in incumbents Yelsey, Walt Davenport and Judy Franco, along with the board’s newest member, Katrina Foley, who served six years on the Costa Mesa City Council.
Last week, Hubbard was charged with two felony counts of misappropriating public funds when he allegedly gave an unauthorized stipend of $20,000 to Karen Anne Christiansen, 52, the director of planning and facilities, while they worked at the Beverly Hills school district. He also allegedly gave her an increase in her car allowance.
Both measures were not approved by the school board, according to the criminal complaint.
If convicted of the felonies, Hubbard, 53, faces five years in prison, but there’s a chance he could also receive probation and be ordered to pay restitution if he has no previous criminal background, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney.
In an interview last week, Yelsey said the seven-member board planned to listen to Covert’s advice on what to do with regard to Hubbard. Yelsey said Hubbard could be placed on administrative leave or would continue to assume his superintendent position in what she referred to as “business as usual.”
Hubbard, who was hired by the school board in July 2006, earns between $280,000 and $300,000 a year, according to Reed.
Over the summer, the school board renewed Hubbard’s contract for three more years; however, Hubbard did not get a raise due to the district’s $13.5-million deficit.
According to the criminal complaint, the alleged crimes of misappropriation occurred on Sept. 25, 2005, and February 6, 2006. They were discovered by Alex Cherniss, director of the district’s human resources at the time.
Hubbard has denied the allegations.
In a personal interview outside his home near Fashion Island on Thursday, Hubbard also said he never had a relationship with Christiansen, who lives in Las Vegas and has had eight felony counts filed against her by Los Angeles County prosecutors.
Christiansen, who made $113,000 in her position at the district, allegedly awarded herself a contract for more than $5 million. This would have been a conflict of interest because she was working at the district at the time.
According to the complaint, Christiansen allegedly negotiated a secret contract in 2006 to be an independent contractor while also performing her school district duties, according to Juliet Schmidt, a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles prosecutors.
Neither Hubbard nor Christiansen has been arrested yet, and both could end up surrendering to Los Angeles County Superior Court during arraignment, Robison said.
Bail for Hubbard has been set at $50,000 and Christiansen’s is $2 million.