Palm Beach County Deputy Schools Superintendent David Christiansen was arrested in 1990 on a charge of a prostitution-related offense, an old case that came to light just days before a decision on whether he will become the next leader of Palm Beach County’s public school system.
Court records indicate that Christiansen, now 49, was arrested by police in December 1990 on misdemeanor charges of violating an Orlando city ordinance prohibiting the “abetting” of prostitution. Authorities dropped the case three weeks later.
At the time of the December 1990 incident, Christiansen had just begun his educational career as a 22-year-old high school teacher in Orange County’s public schools, records show.
UPDATE: The misdemeanor arrest came after a police officer said he saw a known prostitute enter Christiansen’s car in Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood shortly after midnight on a Monday morning, a police report obtained Monday shows.
The officer wrote in a report that he watched Christiansen and the alleged prostitute for five minutes before intervening, at which point Christiansen attempted to drive off and the prostitute tried to walk away with partially opened jeans.
The alleged prostitute, 26, had been arrested at least seven previous times in the Orlando area on prostitution-related charges, state records show.
At the time, Christiansen told the officer that the alleged prostitute had entered his car and threatened to take his car keys if he didn’t hand over $50, according to the arrest report.
In a statement Monday, Christiansen called the officer’s report “a false allegation” that surfaced last week as “a last-ditch attempt to attack me personally.”
“Here are the facts,” he wrote. “1. A false allegation was made. 2. The authorities investigated the allegation and determined that there was no merit and the charges were dropped.”
“As an educator for 28 years,” he continued, “I have gone through rigorous background checks. This effort to disrupt my candidacy for the superintendent only strengthens my resolve to serve this community to continue to improve outcomes for all students.”
ORIGINAL STORY: Under the Orlando ordinance, abetting can include operating a place of prostitution, agreeing to secure or receive a person for prostitution purposes, or transporting someone for the purpose of prostitution.
Penalties include between 10 and 60 days in jail or a fine of between $300 and $500, according to the city’s municipal code. But Orange County court records show authorities declined to prosecute the case.
In an interview, Christiansen pointed out that the charges were quickly dropped. He declined to discuss details of the case but said the arrest was based on a misunderstanding.
“This happened 28 years ago,” he said. “It was an incident where I was arrested and charges were immediately dropped. I’m pretty sure in America you’re innocent until proven guilty.”
“I would hope the general public would understand that this is maybe an attempt to slur my name before the superintendency is determined,” he added.
The incident does not show up on a standard statewide criminal background check, but officials familiar with the situation say the school district discovered it during deeper vetting of the three finalists vying to replace Superintendent Robert Avossa, who announced last month that he will resign in June.
Christiansen said he did not believe that news of the decades-old arrest should affect his candidacy for the school district’s top job.
“I don’t think that should have any effect whatsoever on my ability to be successful in the role,” he said. “I think it has no impact. Obviously the general public can weigh in.”
Christiansen was tapped by Avossa to come to Palm Beach County weeks after Avossa was hired to lead the school district in June 2015.
As deputy superintendent, Christiansen oversees the district’s more than 180 campuses and the education of more than 170,000 students. He earns a base salary of $196,000.
The school district’s human resources department was preparing to formally notify school board members of the incident Friday afternoon.
The revelation comes just days before school board members are set to pick a new superintendent. A decision is set for Wednesday. Christiansen is vying for the top job against Chief Operating Officer Donald Fennoy and Chief Academic Officer Keith Oswald.
Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.