Christiansen Sues BHUSD For $16 Million
Legal trouble is brewing for Beverly Hills Unified School District. Karen Christiansen, president and CEO of Strategic Concepts, LLC, has filed a lawsuit against the District Tuesday.
Strategic Concepts, the firm tasked with managing all structural projects under the $334 million Measure E bond, charges the following:
• The loss by Strategic Concepts of the payments invoiced and now due and the profit it would have made if the agreements were performed through completion;
• The loss to Christiansen personally of the amounts she would have charged and been paid for her personal time if the agreements were performed through completion;
• The serious and unwarranted injury to Christiansen’s business and personal reputations in the industry of managing renovation and construction projects for school districts in California;
• The personal and emotional distress caused to Christiansen.
The lawsuit stems from two contracts Christiansen entered into with the District. The initial agreement, signed on June 3, 2008, and the amendment of Aug. 6, 2008, both stipulate the terms of Christiansen’s service. Under the amendment, Strategic Concepts stood to receive a fee equal to 2 percent of the overall program budget and 4.5 percent of the construction value of each project. The total fees Strategic Concepts stood to earn were in excess of $16 million.
The District deemed these contracts void and invalid Aug. 13 due to irregularities in the contracts. Christiansen was thus locked out of the District (though not escorted off the Beverly campus as erroneously reported). Sources claim a potential conflict of interest between employees of the District and Strategic Concepts may exist, citing government code 1090.
Through June of 2009, Strategic Concepts has received $2,075,000 from the District and billed for an additional $372,661.82, of which they have not been paid.
The complaint further alleges that the District, on numerous occasions through Aug. 12, have continued to be praised and commended by the District and the Board of Education.
The complaint also alleges that the District requested the return of payment in the amount of $4,853,184.30 within seven days.
Strategic Concepts have completed projects within the District, including the rebuilding of the annex at Horrace Mann School.
Schematics for the controversial building at Beverly High were to be due in October.
When asked for comment from the District, Attorney Marilyn Cleveland of San Francisco-based Miller Brown & Dannis was unable to speak due to pending litigation.
Strategic Concepts’ contracts were approved by the Board in a 3-1-1 vote, with Board member Brian Goldberg opposed and Board member Steven Fenton abstaining.
Strategic Concepts is represented by Los Angeles Attorney Hillel Chodos.
As of press time, no lawsuit has yet to be filed on behalf of the District.