Beverly Hills schools rocked by criminal charges, allegations of $5 million in misspent funds
The Beverly Hills Unified School District has been rocked by criminal charges filed by L.A. prosecutors alleging its former superintendent and former facilities director misappropriated more than $5 million in public funds.
The charges, filed Thursday, also reverberated in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, where Jeffrey Hubbard, 53, is now superintendent. Hubbard has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
“It’s absolutely not true,” the former Beverly Hills district superintendent said. “It’s an injustice. This is my career. It’s just not right. I don’t know how I could have anything to do with it.”
Hubbard and Karen Anne Christiansen, 52, former facilities director, were charged with two counts each of misappropriation of public funds. Christiansen, who now lives in Las Vegas, was also charged with six counts of conflict of interest.
According to the felony complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, Hubbard allegedly gave Christiansen a $20,000 stipend that was not authorized by the school board and improperly increased her car allowance.
The complaint alleges that Christiansen, hired by the district in 2004 at an annual salary of $113,000, secretly negotiated to become an independent contractor while still retaining her duties as facilities director, a violation of state conflict-of-interest codes. According to the complaint, she was paid more than $5.2 million by the school district between 2006 and 2009.
In addition, Christiansen allegedly simultaneously negotiated contracts with an energy firm to conduct business with the district and her own company, according to prosecutors.
Christiansen could not be reached for comment. Hubbard, interviewed at his home in Newport Beach, strongly denied the charges.
He said the contract involving Christiansen was approved by the Beverly Hills school board after he had left the district’s employ.
In a statement, the Beverly Hills Board of Education said it was “gratified” at the district attorney’s decision to seek criminal charges against Christiansen and Hubbard.
The district has also filed a civil suit against Christiansen seeking restitution of the alleged misappropriated money.
Newport-Mesa School Board President Karen Yelsey said: "Since the matter was alleged to have occurred in another district, I'm going to reserve making any further statement or any judgment."
-- Carla Rivera in Los Angeles and Mike Reicher and Tom Ragan in Orange County
Photo: Former Beverly Hills Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard. Credit: Times Community News