D.A.: Past actions hurt Hubbard's claims

LOS ANGELES — On April 4, 2006, then-Beverly Hills Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard rode to a Sacramento airport with school board member Myra Lurie and the district's facilities director, Karen Anne Christiansen.

During the car ride, Lurie said, Hubbard said something somewhat inappropriate.

"He said he wanted to find a way to give [Christiansen] more money," Lurie testified on Thursday.

On the witness stand in the Airport Courthouse near Westchester, Lurie told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano that Hubbard's remark put her on the spot because he should have discussed a pay raise for a district employee with the school board first.

Prosecutors point to the testimony as another way that Hubbard — now superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District — tried to curry favor with Christiansen. He is accused of misappropriating $20,000 of Beverly Hills district money to Christiansen without board approval and illegally increasing her car allowance. Christiansen is accused of multiple counts of conflict of interest related to contracts she allegedly gained through her work with the Beverly Hills school district.

That car trip in Sacramento came two months after the second of two illegal, $10,000 stipends were secured for Christiansen by Hubbard, according to prosecutors. This time, Hubbard was trying to clinch a more lucrative contract for her when she would negotiate a new employment deal with the district later in 2006, Hubbard's attorney, Salvatore Ciulla, said outside the courtroom.

Prosecutors said nothing came of that conversation in the car, but it doesn't help Hubbard's claim that any stipends he gave Christiansen were legal and transparent to the district.

Christiansen was under contract with the district, so any pay increases had to come through an amendment to her contract, Lurie testified. Several Beverly Hills school board members this week testified that they never saw a pay increase for Christiansen come across their desk in a meeting agenda.

Hubbard ordered the stipends and a $350 monthly car allowance increase through three memos he sent to the payroll department in late 2005 and early 2006, testified Melody Voyles, the district's former payroll and benefits specialist.

She said she added the money to Christiansen's paychecks as she was directed. The board was never informed.

Prosecutors argue that Christiansen and Hubbard had a relationship during their time together in Beverly Hills. Prosecutors wouldn't specify the nature of their relationship, but contend that it continued after Hubbard became superintendent at Newport-Mesa in July 2006.

Hundreds of pages of e-mails dated between 2005 and 2008, and sent mostly while Hubbard was with Newport-Mesa, show that he and Christiansen exchanged messages ranging from affectionate to risqué. Solorzano will review the copies of the e-mails and consider if those messages offer any motive for Hubbard favoring Christiansen.

Ciulla has said the e-mails were "tongue in cheek."

On Thursday, prosecutors mostly focused on Christiansen. She is accused of using the trust of Beverly Hills district officials to convince them to sign off on construction deals with Johnson Controls Inc. Shortly after the district signed a deal with Johnson Controls, the company signed a contract to work with Christiansen's own energy company on the job — meaning that she benefitted from her own recommendation, according to prosecutors.

Authorities claim that her company netted more than $2 million in the deal.

Solorzano must consider whether prosecutors have enough evidence for Hubbard and Christiansen to stand trial. If convicted, Hubbard likely would get probation because he doesn't have a criminal record and Christiansen could get up to 6 years in prison, officials said.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Friday.

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