The Newport-Mesa Unified school board's decision to fire Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard last week was an easy one. He was, after all, a convicted felon when the trustees pulled the trigger.

Where the board failed was in making the tough decisions that led up to Hubbard's conviction on two counts of misappropriation of public funds. With the exception of Katrina Foley, the trustees voted to give Hubbard five months of expensive paid leave to prepare for trial and shrugged off the sexually suggestive emails he sent to a former employee from his Newport-Mesa account.

The board should have followed industry-standard protocols when high-level public officials are in legal trouble by giving him unpaid leave from the time of his arrest to the time of the verdict. Instead he was allowed to return to work, take leave, and then return again. That was clearly an expensive decision with no return on investment for the taxpayers who footed the bill.

We respect that the board presumed Hubbard innocent. Loyalty like that in this era of throwing people with even the slightest whiff of guilt under the bus is so rare that at times their decision to stand by him was strangely refreshing.

But running a publicly funded institution requires more than loyalty or patiently watching due process take its course. It requires holding the people who work for you accountable and putting the institution ahead of the individual, even the boss. Let's hope the next superintendent is not only more carefully vetted but held to higher standards.