UPDATE:School District Sues Christiansen For $4 Million
Beverly Hills Unified School District will seek $4 million in damages from Karen Christiansen of Strategic Concepts, LLC., according to a lawsuit filed by the BHUSD on Friday afternoon.
Strategic Concepts was hired by the BHUSD to oversee the construction of the $334 million bond, “Measure E.”
“The District recently discovered irregularities in how the contracts with Strategic Concepts, LLC were formed, and the Board of Education acted quickly to address problems with the contracts in order to protect District funds and to insure that the District’s Measure E bond construction program continues as smoothly as possible,” said Dr. Jerry Gross, superintendent for BHUSD.
Strategic Concepts acquired the lucrative contract with the District in June of 2008. Prior to, Strategic Concepts’ CEO Christiansen served as the District’s director of planning and facilities and as a planning and facilities consultant. Strategic Concepts was immediately formed following these positions and prior to receiving the contract.
The Measure E bond allocating $334 million in funds to the District was voted into effect in November of 2008.
Strategic Concepts’ contracts were approved by the Board of Education in a 3-1-1 vote, with President Nooshin Meshkaty, Vice President Myra Lurie and Myra Demeter voting in favor.
As an employee of the District, Christiansen stood to make $170,000 plus a $50,000 completion bonus. Strategic Concepts stood to make in excess of $16 million as a private entity.
The thirteen-page complaint alleges that Christiansen perpetuated a conflict of interest with the District, encouraging the additions to the scope of work related to Measure E building that Strategic Concepts was later charged with overseeing.
The complaint also cites, under California government code section 1090 which prohibits a public employee, including an independent contractor performing a public function, from being financially interested in any contract made by him/her in his/her official capacity. The complaint further claims Christiansen “exerted influence over and participated in the formation, negotiations, discussions, consideration, reasoning and planning of agreements” and that “(Christiansen and Strategic Concepts’) actions in obtaining District funds were undertaken wrongfully.”
The District claims that, due to the allegations, all agreements and contracts made with Christiansen and Strategic Concepts are null and void and is seeking to recoup lost funds as well as all attorney fees and damages.