Judge overturns Christiansen's conviction

An appellate court has overturned the 2011 conviction on conflict-of-interest charges of a school official tied to former Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard.

In addition to directing that all charges against Karen Anne Christiansen be dismissed, Judge Stephen A. Marcus on Friday also vacated her four-year prison sentence and the approximately $3.5-million restitution payment a L.A. County Superior Court judge had ordered her to make.

Christiansen, 55, the Beverly Hills Unified School District's former planning and facilities director, had been convicted on four counts of conflict-of-interest charges for taking more than $1.3 million through a contract she steered to herself. She worked for Hubbard when he was superintendent there.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said she encouraged school officials to borrow money for a building campaign while she planned to direct the management contract to herself.

Her company, Strategic Concepts, began drawing more than $200,000 a month until she was fired, according to the district attorney's office.

On appeal, Christiansen's attorneys argued that the code under which she had been charged did not apply because she was a consultant and independent contractor to the district, not a member, officer or employee.

She had previously worked as an employee, but that status changed in 2006.

In a separate 2012 trial, Hubbard was convicted on two felony counts misappropriating public funds to Christiansen while the two worked in Beverly Hills. He was never accused of wrongdoing in Newport-Mesa but was fired by the school board after his conviction.

This report was compiled the staffs of the Los Angeles Times and Daily Pilot.

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