School board stands by Hubbard

In the wake of a new felony charge filed this week against Newport-Mesa Unified's superintendent, school board support for him has not waned.

Jeffrey Hubbard, 54, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an additional count of felony misappropriation of public funds — his third such charge — related to his last job as superintendent in Beverly Hills.

"I am adamant that Dr. Hubbard is innocent until proven guilty," said Trustee Dana Black.

Black said Hubbard is presumed innocent and is being treated just as any other school district employee — or student — would be in a similar situation.

"I'm not going to knee-jerk and demonize this person," she said.

The new charge, which came by way of a Los Angeles County grand jury indictment, stems from allegations that Hubbard gave a pay raise, without the required school board approval, to administrator Nora Roque while they both worked at the Beverly Hills Unified School District in May of 2005.

Roque now works at Newport-Mesa Unified as the director of classified personnel. Roque is not accused of wrongdoing.

School board President Walt Davenport, who has proclaimed Hubbard's innocence previously, said nothing has changed for him with the new allegation.

"I just want him to go to trial and get it over with," he said.

Davenport said his steadfast support comes from his feelings about Hubbard's character and his belief that the charges won't stand up in court.

"It seems to me that he was acting totally within his authority," Davenport said of the new charge.

Trustee Katrina Foley, the only school board member who voted in January against allowing Hubbard to go on paid administrative leave so he could prepare for his upcoming trial, called the situation "a distraction for our district."

"It would be nice if we can get it resolved one way or another and move beyond this," she said.

Hubbard returned after five months of paid leave in July.

Black pointed to Hubbard's history with the district, saying that he showed strong leadership. She said he helped keep music and art classes, retain full benefits for employees, oversee a period of increased test scores and keep the district fiscally solvent.

Hubbard has done nothing wrong at Newport-Mesa Unified, Black said, adding that the district had an auditor look into the issue when it first arose.

She added that Hubbard has been straightforward about the situation since before he was charged.

"He's the most transparent superintendent that I've ever worked with," she said.

Orange County Criminal Defense Bar Assn. President Kate Corrigan said being charged with a crime is a huge step and, theoretically, the evidence is solid.

Being indicted by the grand jury is not the norm, and the burden of proof is lower, she said.

Corrigan said she sees cases that are "political hot potatoes" go before grand juries.

Hubbard's first two charges, filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors, went through the criminal process of a preliminary hearing — a process, Corrigan said, that is meant to weed out the wrongly accused, or cases with flimsy evidence.

Hubbard was first charged in December for allegedly giving former Beverly Hills administrator Karen Anne Christiansen about $20,000 and raising her monthly car allowance to about $500.

If convicted on all charges, Hubbard faces a maximum of six years in prison, but prosecutors have said he will not likely serve that long.

He is expected to be back in court in Los Angeles on Nov. 10.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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