Emails show Hubbard refused plea bargain

Facing two felony charges, Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard told the school board earlier this year that he rebuffed an offer to discuss a plea bargain with prosecutors, according to emails obtained by the Daily Pilot.

"Yesterday, the D.A. started to make a plea bargain offer to my counsel but we immediately declined," Hubbard wrote to school board members on Jan. 21. "I'm not guilty — period."

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman said he does not recall discussing a plea bargain with Hubbard's attorney, but didn't discount that it happened.

"It doesn't mean anything about the strength of our case," he said. "If our case was weak, we'd dismiss it. It's common practice to discuss possible deals in criminal cases, so we probably talked about some possible agreement."

Hubbard, 54, stands accused of misappropriating funds while at his previous job as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Prosecutors allege that he improperly OK'd $20,000 in payments to, and enriched the car allowance for, a former subordinate, Karen Anne Christiansen.

Hubbard has pleaded not guilty. His trial is expected to begin in mid-August in Los Angeles.

Hubbard, who recently returned to work in Newport-Mesa after a paid leave of absence lasting more than five months, declined to be interviewed for this story. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

School district spokeswoman Laura Boss said Hubbard has been advised by his counsel not to discuss the case with the media.

"It's putting him in a difficult position," Boss said. "He would love nothing more than to have an open and honest discussion about it."


Confident in his defense

Hubbard appears confident in his defense, according to emails from his school account he sent late last year and early this year to the school board and district administrators. Using the California Public Records Act, the Daily Pilot's attorneys acquired the emails from the school district, which initially declined to turn them over.

"I also have faith that the legal system will do it's (sic) job, and I will be completely exonerated of any wrong doing (sic)," Hubbard wrote Dec. 15. "I have pledged to fight until the truth is known."

In the emails, Hubbard argued that he never approved inappropriate payments to Christiansen and that prosecutors do not understand the law.

"Suprintendent's [sic] don't 'approve' anything — that can only be done by the Board," he added in the Dec. 15 email. "The DA has zero understanding of school law, county oversight, the education code, etc."

Hubbard also wrote that the Beverly Hills school board OK'd payments to Christiansen, despite the prosecution's assertions to the contrary.

"My attorney established that the Board in BH [Beverly Hills] did, indeed, approve payments to Christiansen through the warrant report even if the HR [human resources] Dept. fouled up the paperwork," Hubbard wrote to Newport-Mesa school board President Walt Davenport on Jan. 18.

Hubbard alleges in a Jan. 21 email that at least some of the paperwork that could clear him of the illegal acts is missing.

"I'm disappointed that, due to ineptitude or something more nefarious, the documents that would completely exonerate me cannot be found in Beverly Hills Unified," he wrote. "It seems odd to me that the initiators of this mess are the people who could instantly prove my innocence — why would they do that if it hurts their case?"

Even without the missing paperwork, Hubbard told the board that his lawyer finds the prosecution's case weak.

"My attorney also is extremely confident in our case and says in all his years of lawyering he's never seen more esoteric provisions of law that are being stretched to try and find 'something' that I might have done illegally," he wrote in the Dec. 15 email.


Says no affair with subordinate

Hubbard told the board in an email that he never saw Christiansen in a "personal fashion," or spent time alone with her.

He called such accusations "slanderous" and "wildly false" in a Dec. 15 email. It was unclear from the emails who Hubbard believes made those accusations. Hubbard also told the Daily Pilot last year that he did not have a romantic relationship with Christiansen.

"I know, and the emails demonstrate this, I am not a perfect person — but I am certainly not an immoral person, and I want to get that out there," he wrote Jan. 23. "Anyone who knows Karen Christiansen or myself at even a superficial level knows that we did not, ever, have a sexual relationship."

Hubbard, in a Dec 15 email to the Newport-Mesa school board, called the allegations in Beverly Hills consistent with the "'Peyton Place' soap opera atmosphere of that crazy community."

He also said an allegation that Christiansen sat on his lap was untrue.

"If you have ever seen Ms. Christiansen you'd realize that's a physical impossibility," he wrote in a Jan. 21 email.


Contrite about emails

However, Hubbard expressed contrition about writing a series of emails to Christiansen laced with sexual innuendo from his Newport-Mesa account.

"I am horrified and embarrassed that what I thought were private messages were printed for the world to see," he wrote Jan. 23.

He also said he was under the impression that such emails could be kept private.

"Just so you know — I was under the impression that emails were only subject to subpoena at that time," Hubbard added. "[It's] no excuse — but perhaps some insight into how I could be so dumb."

Hubbard wrote to the Newport-Mesa officials that he thought, at the time, he was being funny.

"That too was ridiculous in retrospect," he wrote. "Those emails, it turns out, are one of the biggest blunders of my 30-year career."


Backers on school board

Through it all, several members of the school board have stood by Hubbard.

"We remain positive and confident of a positive outcome for you," Davenport wrote to Hubbard a Dec. 16 email.

With Trustee Katrina Foley dissenting, in January the school board granted Hubbard a paid leave of absence, time which he said he used to prepare his defense.

In an email written Jan. 23 — the day before Hubbard was placed on voluntary paid leave — he wrote that the situation has been a difficult "test."

"As you might imagine — this has been the greatest challenge in my career and one of the greatest in my life," he wrote. "Benjamin Franklin once said, 'What hurts us instructs us,' and have I ever learned through this episode … I know I am being sorely tested and I have every intention of passing that test."

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