COSTA MESA — Newport-Mesa Unified's embattled superintendent used his first school board meeting to deliver emotional words of thanks to his supporters since returning from a voluntary paid leave used to prepare his criminal defense.
As he looked out into the sparse audience of mostly school principals at the end of Tuesday's meeting,
Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard's voice choked up.
"It's been an emotional week and a half, and I want to thank everyone kindly for their extraordinarily warm welcome back," said Hubbard. "Bless you so much for being so kind to me."
School board Vice President Dave Brooks, who was running the meeting in President Walt Davenport's absence, welcomed Hubbard.
"We are pleased to have Dr. Hubbard back where he belongs…" Brooks said.
Hubbard returned to work July 5 after more than five months on leave, which he requested in January, so he could prepare for his defense on two felony charges in Los Angeles County.
Hubbard, 54, is accused of two felony counts of misappropriating funds while at his previous post as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District.
Hubbard allegedly allocated $20,000 of that district's funds without school board approval to the district's former facilities director, Karen Anne Christiansen, and increased her car allowance without authority.
Evidence in the case includes a series of racy emails laced with sexual innuendo between Hubbard and Christiansen.
Most of the Newport-Mesa school board has steadfastly stood by Hubbard. Davenport has said he was convinced of the superintendent's innocence and found the charges against him to be trumped up.
No comments were made by the public or school board about Hubbard's return.
Brooks said Monday that Hubbard came back to work because he and his attorney had completed preparing for the trial, which is tentatively slated to begin in mid-August.
Hubbard also used a portion of his time off to get married for the third time, take a short honeymoon, and move from Newport Beach to another Orange County city. Hubbard informed district administrators and the school board of his nuptials and relocation in a recent email.