Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2018 – 3:17 PM
By Laura Coleman
Beverly Hills Unified School District is finally off the hook in its troubled years-long legal battle against former BHUSD facilities chief Karen Christiansen, who until this morning was owed in excess of $23 million by the school district.
In a 21-page decision, filed today by the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Six, the court reversed the trial decision that found the district to be liable for having fired Christiansen after she used her district role to enter into a sole-sourced contract with a company she founded, Strategic Concepts LLC.
The decision states: “We reverse. Section 1090 applies to independent contractors. The trial court misinterpreted section 1090 and erred in not instructing on the competitive bidding statutes. The contract also limits the LLC’s damages.”
Following a hearing with the Court of Appeals in February in the case of Strategic Concepts LLC v. Beverly Hills Unified School, BHUSD attorney Fred A. Fenster of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP told the Courier that he strongly believed the panel had clearly understood that Christiansen’s actions had violated the purpose of Gov. Code Section 1090.
“The Beverly Hills Unified School District is pleased that the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s award of more than $20 million and validated the district’s position that Government Code Section 1090 applies,” Fenster told the Courier after reading the decision. “It is the district’s intention to prove in the event there is a new trial that the agreements which Karen Christensen signed are invalid because she had a conflict of interest and failed to comply with the competitive bidding process. This decision will insure that people who contract with the district are held to the highest degree of public integrity.”
The reach of Government Code Section 1090 – the very code that a jury used to convict Christiansen of criminal behavior in 2012 whereupon she was sentenced to four years and four months in prison and ordered to pay the district $3.5 million in restitution – was at the heart of overturning the trial court’s 2015 ruling by L.A. Superior Court Judge Stephen Czuleger that opened the gates for that jury to award her tens of millions of dollars. BHUSD subsequently appealed that ruling.
For the full story, see tomorrow’s issue of the Courier or view the digital edition later tonight.