Witness: Hubbard directed payroll to give raise [Corrected]

LOS ANGELES — When he was schools chief in Beverly Hills, Jeffrey Hubbard directed the payroll department to grant bonuses and a pay raise to two employees, a district employee testified Thursday. It was a move by Hubbard, prosecutors asserted, that sought to bypass the required school board approval.

An earlier version incorrectly stated that Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard is accused of giving Norma Roque an illegal bonus. He is accused of giving her an illegal pay increase.

Beverly Hills Unified Asst. Supt. Sal Gumina testified in Hubbard's criminal trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he was copied on memos written by his then-boss that ordered payroll to grant the district's former Facilities Director Karen Anne Christiansen a $20,000 bonus and raise her car allowance to $500.

But because the memos were not addressed directly to him and were sent to an employee in payroll, Gumina testified that he would have assumed the increases had already won approval from the school board. And it was rare, he said, for employees to check up on or second-guess Hubbard's directives.

"If there is a directive from the superintendent to pay ... it would have already gone to the board, the board would have approved it and the minutes would have reflected it," Gumina said, although he added that the memo should have come with necessary attachments reflecting that the bonus was given the OK by school board members.

Hubbard, 54, who is now superintendent of Newport-Mesa Unified, faces three felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. He has pleaded not guilty to the allegations that about five years ago he gave illegal bonuses to Christiansen and a pay raise to another employee.

Christiansen, 53, in a separate trial was recently sentenced to prison after being convicted on conflict-of-interest charges.

Judge Stephen A. Marcus asked Gumina if a memo from Hubbard carried more weight or importance than one from a principal asking to pay a coach or teacher overtime.

"I would say yes. He's the boss," Gumina said.

Hubbard's defense attorney, Sal Ciulla, argued that it was an oversight by Gumina, not an intentional flub on Hubbard's part, that resulted in the payment going through without school board approval.

Gumina told the jury that normally a stipend for overtime would come in the form of a memo addressed to him from a principal or another school authority requesting the pay, and his office would create a packet to go before the school board for approval.

"You just don't want to take responsibility for this, do you?" Ciulla asked Gumina.

Gumina testified that he would have assumed the stipend would have gone through the appropriate channels, and because he was CC'd he would not have taken any action.

Myra Lurie, who served on the Beverly Hills school board from 2003 to 2011, testified that Hubbard promised Christiansen more pay when the three were on an official trip to Sacramento in April 2006.

"I remember him saying, 'Karen, I'm going to find a way to get you more money,'" she said.

Lurie said that she told Hubbard he shouldn't make such promises, and there was a "frosty time waiting for our airplane" from Sacramento.

During Ciulla's cross examination, Lurie said the pay increase to Christiansen never came up again.

"We never officially considered giving her more money, but I remember people praised her," Lurie said.

The second recipient of Hubbard's alleged actions, Nora Roque, now works for the administration at Newport-Mesa Unified. She has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The trial is expected to continue Friday.


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