Friday, January 3, 2014
C.A. Tosses Conviction of Former BHUSD Superintendent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has ordered dismissal of charges against a former Beverly Hills school superintendent convicted of misappropriating funds.
Div. One ruled Tuesday that Jeffrey Hubbard was incapable of violating Penal Code §424—which makes it a crime for a person “charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, or disbursement of public moneys” to appropriate those funds to the defendant’s own use of that of someone else—because Hubbard did not control the district’s funds.
The charges stemmed from allegations that Hubbard paid Karen Christiansen, former district director of planning and facilities, an unauthorized bonus and increased car allowance. Christiansen was convicted of conflict of interest and sentenced to nearly four years in prison, plus $3.5 million in restitution, but the same division of the Court of Appeal reversed that conviction last June, saying the defendant was not a public official in the sense envisioned by the relevant statute.
Christiansen’s car allowance was boosted from $150 monthly to $500 in 2005. She was also granted a $20,000 stipend in 2006.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus allowed the charges to go to the jury, which found Hubbard guilty on two of three counts. But the evidence did not support the guilty verdicts, Justice Frances Rothschild said Tuesday in an unpublished opinion.
“At trial it was undisputed that both the increased car allowance and the stipend required approval by the district’s board of education—Hubbard did not have the legal authority to order them unilaterally,” the justice wrote.
Hubbard was superintendent of Beverly Hills Unified School District from July 2003 to June 2006. He subsequently worked for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District but was fired the day after he was convicted.
“He was let go from Newport-Mesa because we were legally required to terminate him,” board President Karen Yelsey told the L.A. Now blog.
“I personally never thought he should have been charged,” she said. “A superintendent isn’t responsible for authorizing funds.”
Hubbard’s lawyers contended that others in Beverly Hills Unified failed to follow proper procedures when Christiansen’s compensation was enhanced. They also asserted that he would have been absolved by emails between Hubbard and school board members, which Hubbard said would show that the board approved the benefits, but Marcus denied discovery of the emails on the ground it would have been unduly burdensome.
The Court of Appeal did not address the propriety of that ruling.
After being sentenced in February 2012, Hubbard served four days of a 60-day jail sentence. He was also sentenced to 280 hours of community service, three years’ probation, $23,500 in restitution to the school district and a $6,000 fine.
The Court of Appeal ordered dismissal of all charges against Hubbard, who was represented by attorneys Hillel Chodos and Philip Kaufler, who also represented Christiansen in her successful appeal.
The jury found Christiansen guilty of having secretly negotiated four contracts on behalf of the district that benefited a company that she owned. But because those deals were negotiated after Christiansen left her position as facilities director and became a consultant to BHUSD in 2006, the appellate panel explained, she was not subject to Government Code §1090, which prohibits “[m]embers of the Legislature, state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees” from having a personal financial stake in contracts made in their official capacities.
Deputy Attorneys General Lawrence M. Daniels and Eric E. Reynolds represented the prosecution in both the Hubbard and Christiansen appeals.
The case ruled on Tuesday is People v. Hubbard, B239519.
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