Attorney says Richland School District illegally fired former superintendent

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 16, 2013 

Former Richland School Superintendent Jim Busey was illegally fired because he wasn't given a hearing as required by state law, his attorney said.

The accusation was made in a letter sent this week to the school district demanding that Busey be allowed to return to work and collect his salary.

Brian Iller, with the law firm Rettig Osborne Forgette in Kennewick, said Busey was entitled to a pretermination hearing before he was fired in mid-January.

He was dismissed for violating the morals clause of his contract by having an affair with a district employee at an elementary school, for "threats to misrepresent" the district and other allegations.

Richland School Board Chairman Rick Jansons said Friday that he had not seen the letter sent to the district's Spokane-based attorney Greg Stevens. However, he said Busey's termination stands and the board is searching for his replacement.

"We followed all the directions of our attorney and were within the law," Jansons told the Herald.

Busey has argued that he told the school board Nov. 8 of his consensual relationship with an employee and claims that the district's initial investigation revealed no problems. It wasn't until after the Herald reported on the relationship in early December that the board took action to remove him, Busey said.

"The (Richland School District) should have just stood by its original and accurate conclusion," Iller said Friday in a prepared statement to the Herald. "Instead, it engaged in a sham investigation and then terminated Dr. Busey's employment in violation of his statutory rights and in violation of his contract."

Iller said in his letter that state law required the board give his client a pretermination hearing. The board failed to do that in December after Busey was placed on paid leave and the board asked for his resignation.

The board again failed to hold a hearing when Busey was fired in January.

Iller also said the board discriminated against his client by firing only Busey but not the female employee.

Iller said Busey has not yet filed a claim or lawsuit against the district. However, he urged the district in his letter to preserve all evidence and records connected to the investigation and Busey's firing.

The board already has taken steps to replace Busey, who was paid $160,730 a year.

Board members are meeting in a special public meeting Wednesday afternoon, partly to discuss the search for a new superintendent.

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