A state appellate panel recently reversed two felony convictions for former Newport-Mesa Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard.
Newport-Mesa's school board fired Hubbard a day after he was convicted in January 2012 of two counts of misappropriating public funds while superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District from July 2003 to June 2006. So does this mean he should get his job back, also?
Not quite, according to school board president Karen Yelsey. She reportedly told the Daily Pilot of Hubbard last week, "He was let go from Newport-Mesa because we were legally required to terminate him."
Then, in an amazing example of double-speak, Yelsey is said to have added, "I personally never thought he should have been charged. A superintendent isn't responsible for authorizing funds."
WTF? So you had to fire him!?!
Actually, Hubbard's attorney goes on to tell the Pilot Newport-Mesa is under no legal obligation to rehire his client.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in January 2012 found Hubbard guilty of two felony counts of misappropriating public funds while he served as superintendent of schools in Beverly Hills but let him off the hook for a third count involving a pay raise to an employee who later followed him to Newport-Mesa, Nora Roque.
Hubbard was convicted of paying fellow Beverly Hills administrator Karen Anne Christiansen a $20,000 stipend and providing her a car allowance without the school board's approval. Among the evidence that leaked even before the trail began were sexed-up emails between the two school officials and photos of Christiansen in a swimsuit that she sent to the school district attorney whose firm later renegotiated her contract.
Hubbard later denied he'd been in a romantic relationship with Christiansen, and his defense was, like Yelsey put it, as a superintendent he was not authorized to unilaterally dole out stipends and bump up car allowances. He claimed he had received authorization from the Beverly Hills school board in closed session.
Christiansen was convicted in December 2011 of steering a building contract exceeding $1.3 million her own way while serving as the Beverly Hills school system's facilities director. She was sentenced to fours years and four months in state prison on felony conflict of interest counts. Hubbard was looking at about the same prison time, but he was sentenced in February 2012 to 60 days in jail and he only served four days.
A three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Hubbard's lawyers last week, citing state law that says as superintendent, he was not "charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer or disbursement of public moneys."
"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," Judge Frances Rothschild wrote in the ruling.
The panel also ruled Hubbard is to be refunded $23,500 he was ordered to pay in restitution and a $6,000 fine to the Beverly Hills school district.
It's now up to the Los Angeles Superior Court to formally dismiss all charges against Hubbard, unless prosecutors file for a review by Feb. 9. If that does not happen, the trial court can dismiss the charges in as soon as two months, Hubbard's attorney told the Pilot.