.

Christiansen Found Guilty in Conflict of Interest Case

Onetime BHUSD facilities director Karen Christiansen was found guilty of four counts of conflict of interest Monday.

Former Beverly Hills Unified School District employee Karen Christiansen was found guilty Monday on four felony counts of conflict of interest related to charges that she secretly negotiated a deal to be an independent BHUSD contractor while performing her duties as the district’s facilities director. 

Christiansen faces up to eight years in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 5. She was taken into custody in lieu of $400,000 bail.

“I am very gratified in the verdict today as it will enable us to close a very sad chapter in our district’s past,” Board of Education Vice President Brian Goldberg told Patch. “I am confident moving forward that we have learned a valuable lesson and I am hopeful that future boards will take their responsibilities of oversight, transparency and accountability more seriously so we can ensure this never happens to us again.”

Goldberg has been a vocal proponent of bringing Christiansen to trial. Jury deliberations on four conflict of interest charges began Friday after five days of witness testimony and one day of closing arguments. 

Christiansen, now 53, was accused of serving as BHUSD’s project manager for the $334 million Measure E bond while also being paid $5.2 million by the district for consultant services between 2006 and 2009. Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman, who prosecuted the case, told jurors that at least $2.4 million of these funds are unaccounted for, according to the Nov. 18 Beverly Hills Courier.

The former facilities director was also a paid consultant to Orange County energy firm Johnson Controls Inc. while recommending the BHUSD purchase $7 million worth of goods and services from the company. Former BHUSD Superintendent Kari McVeigh and former Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Cheryl Plotkin testified that had they known about the relationship between Christiansen and Johnson Controls, they would not have recommended that the district hire the company, the Courier reported. 

The BHUSD last week settled legal claims against Johnson Controls relating to its dealings with Christiansen, according to the Courier. The district received $5 million in cash and $1.65 million in future equipment purchases, the newspaper reported, noting that it obtained the settlement terms through the California Public Records Act. Board officials declined to comment. 

As Patch has reported, BHUSD has spent more than $2 million on legal fees related to the Christiansen case. The criminal case, however, may have helped the district as it pursued its settlement with Johnson Controls. 

Now that a jury verdict is reached, related civil cases may proceed. Christiansen filed a $16 million claim against BHUSD in 2009 after it severed its relationship with her company, Strategic Concepts. The BHUSD countersued for $4 million and attorney fees; both suits were stayed (legally put on hold) pending the outcome of the criminal case.

This story was compiled with information from City News Service.

Be sure to follow Beverly Hills Patch on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook.

Brian David Goldberg, PhD November 22, 2011 at 01:05 AM
This hopefully ends a very sad chapter in our district. The take away should be that BHUSD is not for sale and we intend to hold everyone accountable
alan November 22, 2011 at 01:34 AM
I'm still confused...what are the consequences to Christiansen for the verdicts, according to this article, $2 million has been spend pusuing her...what was spent on the Johnson Control matter, and why is any of the settlement proceeds going to the general fund when the expenses for construction and legal fees came from the bond funds?
Laurie Lande November 22, 2011 at 02:02 AM
You raise some good questions Alan and we will try to follow up with answers. However I don't think the district can add the settlement money to the bond fund, as that money is supposed to be raised solely through selling bonds.
Miss BH November 22, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Who said it was over?
Miss BH November 22, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Alan the whole thing is mind blowing. The district spent $1,613,915 in legal fees in just three months of this sham, so who knows what the real numbers are at this point. I want to know how much they spent to have the lawyers in court when its in the DA's hands and they were told by the DA to stop wasting school funds and go home. The district has spent a lot of money trying to cover up their screw up and it will catch up with them. Unfortunately the community will pay for it.
Miss BH November 22, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Try to print the correct "facts". First, the fact that Christiansen was a consultant for JCI for 89 hours in a completely separate school district was not a secret and WAS in fact known to the District, its in emails and testified to as disclosed. It was proved in court and testified to by witnesses. The 7.5 million contract was negotiated down from 9.1 million....a savings of over 1.6 million...again brought out in court. Also the mention of $2.4 million that was not accounted for. This item was stricken by the judge as being absolutely false and not a fact of this case. The BHUSD and JCI settlement have nothing what so ever to do with the case. I could go on but no one will read it anyway.
Bulling TeachersandPrincipals January 09, 2012 at 08:23 AM
Subject: Jeffrey Hubbard got served at last Board meeting on 12/13/11 right after 9:pm by Kimberly --     Kimberly --spoke at NMUSD Board Meeting on  12-13-11.   Kimberly served verbal Complaints against Dr. Jeffery Hubbard and Walt Davenport for Retaliation and not protecting her family from filing Complaint/Claim on 8-4-11, on camera. The archive DVD is now edited and her speech during Public Concerns that were documented are purged, erased and are now gone from Board Meeting. This does not surprise family and they thought this could happen and unfortunately be hidden from public viewing, especially with Jeffrey Hubbard going to court in LA today. The court date got reset for next Tuesday. Parent asked security guard if she can video tape during her turn to speak and he refused as said it is not allowed. Interesting other people are allowed to take photos and video events in the meetings, but not this Parent reporting and asking for Accountability from their Staff, District Employees, Superintendent and Board Members. Why not? Obviously the exposure before the trial could put a stop to the CONTINUED CORRUPTION in District. It seems to be illegal for a public meeting to get edited out with Unlawful conduct from District for 11 months that appears to be deliberately gone, VANISHED INTO THIN AIR....  The 85 list of Mr. Brooks positive com men  Already called District and they are supposedly going to research what happened to it, later next week.
Bulling TeachersandPrincipals February 20, 2012 at 02:40 AM
There was a missing type o on this site under Dave Brooks 85 great things to say about NMUSD even if you are in a grocery line and much more.... Still edited out as of 2-14-12. Appears more things were edited out and now miraciously archive DVD tape is running, but the words people state are not what is coming out of there mouth. Behind slightly or more editing, what do you think? What the NMUSD and see Kimberly and Dr. Ketchum, the theater students Mom speaking and was under Pending status for several weeks if not a month and others speaking about their concerns from meeting on 1-24-12. Authorities, District Attorney in Orange County should step in immediately. Please help and support Community in NMUSD and Kimberly and others showing Pattern of Behavior with destruction and unlawful conduct to children, Families, Good Teachers/Staff. Please stand together to get some of these People out ot their positions and stop COVERING FOR EACH OTHER.......

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »