Hubbard case goes to the jury

LOS ANGELES — Jeffrey Hubbard misued money meant for schoolchildren when, as Beverly Hills schools chief, he illegally gave funds to two female subordinates, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Thursday.

"We're talking about a person who voluntarily chose to take a very high-paying job that entrusted him with public money," Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman said of Hubbard, who is now superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Huntsman later added that "everybody else testified that every dime that was spent had to go to the board in advance except in [an] emergency," like if a pipe burst and a plumber was urgently needed.

Hubbard's defense attorney, Sal Ciulla, told the jury that retroactive action is common for a school board and that Hubbard's suggestions for stipends, salary increases and car allowance improvements were permissible and legal.

Hubbard's testimony was inconsistent with the evidence brought before jurors in the form of testimony from former school board members, assistant superintendents and other subordinates, who said Hubbard could be a bully and didn't want his requests for additional pay documented, Huntsman said.

Ciulla countered that the testimony of witnesses who worked for Beverly Hills Unified couldn't be trusted, and each one had a different account of what happened.

"I'll be honest with you — we don't even know if this final version is the truth," Ciulla said. "If the trial went on for a few more days, who knows? They might come in with something else."

After he made requests, not orders, for raises and stipends, it was the job of Hubbard's subordinates to be sure that items were placed on the school board agenda for approval, not Hubbard's, and that he could order a pay increase or bonus without approval from the trustees, Ciulla argued.

"Did you kind of get the feeling that when [the witnesses] testified they were each pointing the finger at the other one?" Ciulla asked the jury. "Nobody wanted to take responsibility for what their job was."

Ciulla told jurors that emails filled with sexual innuendo between former Facilities Director Karen Anne Christiansen, 53, and Hubbard, 54, weren't his motivation for giving her more money, but instead said that she was driving across Southern California and would burn through her small stipend in the first week.

Ciulla read from a series of emails between Hubbard and Christiansen from 2008 saying that many people in the Beverly Hills and Newport-Mesa school districts believed the two had an affair.

"Did we have fun? I must have missed it when we built the FTC," Christiansen wrote.

"I told you, they think the same thing down here," Hubbard replied.

Ciulla pointed to the exchange as evidence that the two's relationship never became physical.

Huntsman said their exchanges didn't need to be physical for Hubbard to be motivated to make illegal pay increases.

"It doesn't take an actual sexual relationship for somebody to set aside their responsibilities," Huntsman said.

Hubbard stands accused of illegally giving Christiansen $20,000 extra in a stipend and upping her monthly car allowance to $500, as well as giving another former Beverly Hills administrator, Nora Roque, an illegal pay raise that over time added up to about $20,000.

Christiansen was found guilty in November of four felony conflict-of-interest charges related to her actions while working for the Beverly Hills school district. She was sentenced to four years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution.

Roque, who now works as director of classified personnel at Newport-Mesa Unified, has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Jurors were given the case about 3 p.m. and went straight to the jury room to begin deliberating Hubbard's fate on his three felony charges in Los Angeles County Superior Court of misappropriation of public funds. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

Hubbard was asked to report back to court at 10 a.m. Friday.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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