Richland schools chief says he was offered settlement to resign

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldDecember 20, 2012 

Richland schools Superintendent Jim Busey says he has been offered a settlement to resign from his job with the district.

The offer was made after Busey was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 10 for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a district employee, Busey told the Herald.

"I think the board wanted him to think about a letter of resignation and move on with his career," said Gene Sharratt, a former superintendent of the North Central Educational Service District in Wenatchee and now a consultant to the Richland board, who spoke with Busey on the board's behalf earlier this month.

Busey, who spoke to the Herald on Wednesday, said the district already investigated his relationship with the staff member in November and found no issues. He said he wants to remain superintendent but, if not, he needs to paid for the rest of his contract.

Busey earns $156,810 a year and has 2 1/2 years left on his contract.

"I'd surely like to be judged on the merits of my job performance rather than my personal life," he told the Herald.

School Board Chairman Rick Jansons told the Herald he could not discuss whether Busey had been offered a settlement, and declined to talk about the case, noting the allegations still are under investigation.

However, Jansons said he was disappointed with Busey's decision to discuss the situation with the Herald and the effect on his position with the district.

"I would question his effectiveness should he continue," Jansons said. "And I don't know the answer to that."

Busey told Jansons on Nov. 8 of his relationship with a district employee after a complaint was filed with the district's human resources department. That initiated an investigation.

Busey said an attorney then reviewed district policy and state law and found there was no violation. The employee he had a relationship with works at Jefferson Elementary School but Busey said she is not someone who reported directly to him.

Interviews with other district employees who could have been affected by the relationship showed there was no conflict or problem with it, Busey said.

He said the school board concluded its investigation Nov. 21 with no disciplinary action.

"I asked (Jansons a week later) if there was anything else we needed to do and he said no," Busey said.

But Jansons told the Herald the investigation has been ongoing since Nov. 8.

"We're in the middle of an investigation, and I can't comment for our protection and others, including the superintendent," Jansons said.

When the investigation was about to became public in a Dec. 8 Herald story, Busey said he wanted to say the district found no evidence of wrongdoing, but Jansons discouraged that.

Instead, Busey made a brief comment that he was cooperating with the investigation. Jansons said he never discouraged Busey from making a statement, only that he would want any statement to the media vetted by the district's attorney.

The next day Sharratt contacted Busey about a settlement possibility.

"I told (Busey) the board would very much like to reach a settlement with (him) so the district isn't embarrassed and maintains its integrity," Sharratt told the Herald.

Jansons confirmed the board asked Sharratt to talk with Busey but could not recall whether they told Sharratt to broach the subject of a settlement.

Busey said he was bothered that the district already was willing to remove him after just restarting the investigation.

He said he was told by Alan Key, with the district's insurance company who was investigating the allegations, that there were rumors Busey had more than one affair with people inside and outside of the district. Busey denies those allegations. Key declined any comment when reached Wednesday.

Busey said he's upset the board is making an issue of the relationship only now that it's public.

"All of a sudden, now we have public opinion weighing in," Busey said. "It just seems odd and bizarre to me."

He claims the board knew before he was hired in February 2010 that he had a relationship with someone while working for another school district and he still was hired.

Busey admitted he's made mistakes, and acknowledged he's working through a divorce with his estranged wife, but his personal life is his own and it doesn't the affect the safety or quality of education Richland students receive. Busey said he has been separated from his wife since August.

"My personal life doesn't impact kids," Busey said. "The only impact it will have is if parents talk about it."

Jansons said the board only is concerned about finding a resolution that protects everyone's rights and is in the best interests of the district.

However, he said he and the board did not know about Busey's prior relationship with a different person before Busey was hired.

"I'm surprised and disappointed that our superintendent has come out talking about this when we're still investigating," Jansons said.

Jansons said he didn't know when the district investigation would be complete, though he did expect the board to talk about it at 10 a.m. Friday in a closed-door session.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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