LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors on Wednesday introduced e-mails they say showed a relationship between the superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and a former subordinate of his when he worked as schools chief in Beverly Hills.
The correspondence, laced with sexual innuendo, pet names and terms of endearment, was sent between Newport-Mesa Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard and Karen Anne Christiansen, a former Beverly Hills Unified administrator.
Some of the e-mails were sent while Hubbard still worked in Beverly Hills earlier this decade, but the majority were sent from his Newport-Mesa account.
Over objections from Hubbard’s defense attorney, prosecutors argued that the e-mails, though not direct evidence of any crime, established an unspecified relationship between the two administrators and an alleged motive for Hubbard to do financial favors for Christiansen.
Hubbard, in an earlier interview with the Pilot, denied having a relationship outside of work with Christiansen.
Prosecutors did not define what they meant by “relationship” during the proceedings, and it was unclear whether they were asserting a friendship or something more.
Hubbard and Christiansen have both been charged with felonies alleging financial improprieties while they worked in Beverly Hills.
Presiding over a courtroom at the Airport Courthouse near Westchester, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano said that she plans to consider the e-mails’ value throughout the preliminary hearing’s testimony and toss them out of evidence if they prove irrelevant.
The widely discussed e-mails — first uncovered by the Orange County Register — were introduced, but not discussed in court.
Prosecutors plan to address them in more detail Thursday morning, when the hearing is scheduled to continue. Using double entendres, the messages allude to oral sex and other acts. The two writers also express love and affection for one another but it’s unclear from the e-mails whether the endearments are meant to be casual or romantic.
Hubbard’s defense attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, said the messages were “tongue in cheek.”
A Newport-Mesa school board member has said that Hubbard routinely tells officials that he loves them and addresses them with casual nicknames.
Hubbard is charged with two felony counts of authorizing a $20,000 payment to Christiansen — allegedly a misappropriation of public funds — and illegally increasing her car allowance between 2005-06 when they both worked in Beverly Hills.
Christiansen is charged with multiple charges of conflicts of interest. Prosecutors said she used her role as a trusted consultant with the district to line up contracts for her own company, netting more than $2.2 million.
As part of the body of evidence introduced Wednesday, prosecutors asserted that the school board had no clue about Hubbard’s giving Christiansen two $10,000 stipends.
“In my eight years on the board, I’ve never seen a stipend issued,” testified Myra Demeter, a Beverly Hills school board member from 2001-08.
Christiansen’s $20,000 stipend was listed on a lone district report, but nowhere school board members would notice it, prosecutors claimed.
A contracted employee with the school district can’t legally receive additional compensation without the board renegotiating her entire contract, Deputy Dist. Atty. Juliet Schmidt said.
Ciulla aimed to prove that the school board approved the payment, perhaps unknowingly. In a preliminary hearing, it’s up to the judge to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take Hubbard and Christiansen to trial.
Demeter also testified that Christiansen represented herself as a district employee and didn’t know that while she was urging the Beverly Hills school board to approve construction with a contractor, Johnson Controls Inc., that same company was planning to work with Christiansen’s side business.
The hearing is scheduled to continue Thursday.