Editorial: School board should investigate Hubbard

The Newport-Mesa school board made the right call last week in accepting Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard's request to be placed on paid administrative leave. The misappropriation-of-funds charges against him in Los Angeles County, as well as the publication of spicy e-mails between him and a female subordinate, had distracted from the board's day-to-day mission: educating students in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.

Though we hand a shiny apple (insert your own serpent reference here) to the Board of Education for doing the right thing, we're confounded about why it belatedly bowed to a request from Hubbard, rather than to its own conscience or community sentiment.

Hubbard was charged with two felonies, after all, and though they are related to the alleged enrichment of an employee contract in Beverly Hills, where he once worked, the board sat on its hands for too long, and a couple of trustees made blasé comments about inappropriate e-mails sent by Hubbard from his workplace accounts.

Hey, these were two consenting adults, and the e-mails were sent to Beverly Hills, not to Newport-Mesa, the reasoning went. He's doing a good job here. And so on.

Some speculate that board members stuck their heads in the sand because their top educator is viewed as warm, articulate, charming and, most of all, effective. And if we were on the ropes we'd want our employer to have our backs, too, so we understand the board's loyalty — but only to a point.

Those e-mails, laced with pet names and references to oral sex and other acts, are enough to cause concern in the context of a public school district.

Now, we're not prudes. We're not scolds.

But we don't think that a workplace, particularly one that taxpayers fund to educate children as young as 5, is the appropriate venue for sexy talk, sophomoric double entendres, pet names and blush-inducing flattery. There's little doubt that most private sector employees would be reprimanded — or worse — for sending such e-mails on company systems. Standards of professional conduct should actually be higher in the public sector — and highest, if you will — in school systems.

Now the criminal aspect of this is easy — Hubbard is innocent until proven otherwise. He doesn't deserve to be convicted in these columns or on online comments boards. And we honestly can't tell from the incomplete evidence we've seen whether he did what prosecutors allege. That's one for the jury.

But here's a case for the Newport-Mesa school board: Investigate your superintendent's workplace behavior. See if the results of this examination fit your professional standards, codes of conduct and online policies, and whether the substance of the aforementioned e-mails violated any of those codes and policies. Then issue your own verdict.

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