Richland School Board to review findings on Superintendent Jim Busey

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 22, 2013 

The Richland School District's attorney sent resignation and settlement documents to Superintendent Jim Busey within days of his being placed on paid administrative leave in December.

Richland School Board Chairman Rick Jansons previously told the Herald that the board never offered to buy out Busey's contract with the district and wasn't contemplating doing so. He said Monday that the documents were sent at Busey's request.

Busey provided the settlement and resignation documents to the Herald on Monday.

"In my mind, a buyout is very different from a resignation, especially at his request," Jansons said.

Board members will meet this morning to review the findings of the investigation and make a decision about Busey's future with the district. Busey met Monday with Alan Key, an investigator working for the district's insurance company.

Key said the focus of his investigation involved Busey's relationship with an employee at Jefferson Elementary School and the relationship's effect on his job as well as a second relationship he had with a woman who supervised student teachers in the district but is not a district employee.

A third focus is Busey's threats to disclose district information. Neither side will say what that issue involves.

Busey was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 10.

Busey told the Herald he has done nothing wrong and never requested to resign, though he admits he has made mistakes and would have done things differently in hindsight.

"This is my career, this is my life," he said.

Jansons has declined to discuss the investigation.

Busey, who has been in divorce proceedings with his wife since November, claims the district already investigated his relationship with a district employee in November and found there were no issues. He said it only became a problem when the district's investigation became public. Jansons has denied the board or its investigators ever finished the investigation.

The school district's attorney, Greg Stevens with the Spokane law firm Stevens Clay Manix, faxed the settlement and resignation documents Dec. 14 to Busey's attorney. A follow-up letter faxed Dec. 21 said the offer was valid until Dec. 26.

If Busey had agreed to resign, he would have taken a leave of absence until June 30 but would have been relieved of his duties immediately, according to the documents. He would have received his normal salary until Dec. 31, 2012, and his health benefits would have been provided until June 30. Busey also would have had to waive any legal action against the district.

"You will note that the ... statement of resignation, gives no specific reason," Stevens included in a note with the documents. "If you would like to add reasons to this such as for personal reasons or to pursue other opportunities, we can make this change. ... From the district's standpoint they are willing to thank you for your service to the district, etc."

Busey said he sent Jansons a text message soon after he was placed on leave, but it was to request he work directly with the board on the situation.

The board also had clearly indicated it wanted to settle with Busey before that because it had Gene Sharratt, a consultant who helped the district recruit Busey, speak to him about the possibility of a quick settlement.

"(The board) made a decision immediately. They made a decision before I met with the investigator," Busey said.

Jansons told the Herald on Monday that Busey sent him a text message Dec. 13, apologizing for the situation and asking for Jansons and the board to tell him what they needed from him so this could be put behind them.

"I believe I am finally over the shock and disappointment I have caused," Busey said in his text message, which was shared with the Herald. "As you know I have spoken to Gene (Sharratt) a number of times and researched options. I told you and the board that I want what is best for the district. The past couple of days I did not keep that focus."

The men exchanged a few more messages, with Jansons saying he would do as Busey requested. In their final exchange, Busey said he already missed working with Jansons, to which Jansons said he felt the same way.

"I took it that he was ready to move on from the district," Jansons said.

Jansons said the board asked Sharratt to speak with Busey but only to find out what he wanted to do. Sharratt was not instructed to discuss a settlement and if he did so, it was at his own initiative, Jansons said.

"I think he's playing word games," Jansons said of Busey.

Jansons said he is not as free to talk about the situation as Busey and that he and the board have acted in the district's best interests.

"I would not have commented on a personnel matter at all if Busey hadn't gone repeatedly to the press," he said.

It would cost the district at least $400,000 to buy out Busey's contract, which lasts until June 2015. He's also eligible to cash out his vacation and sick time and is allowed to charge further moving expenses to the district based on his moving to Richland from Lake Chelan in 2010.

Busey invited the Herald to his meeting with Key at his Richland apartment Monday. The investigator initially declined to interview Busey with a reporter there, but returned later, saying he had clearance to conduct the interview with others present.

However, Busey called off that second meeting when Key said he wanted to keep the names of those involved in the investigation off the record. Eventually, Busey met with Key privately after Busey's attorney advised him not to have a Herald reporter there.

Busey said his relationship with a support staff employee at Jefferson hasn't ended, though he said they mutually agreed to step back from it.

He insists he has done nothing unethical or illegal, though he admitted he could have handled it better by delaying his relationship with the district employee or telling the board sooner.

"In some ways, personally, I don't feel I should apologize for a relationship with someone I feel deeply about," he said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402;; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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