Ex-Richland superintendent wants depositions from school district lawyers

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 3, 2014 

Former Richland Superintendent Jim Busey wants to take depositions from two school district attorneys to use in his wrongful termination lawsuit.

But the district is asking U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice to bar the depositions, citing attorney-client privilege, court documents said.

Busey's attorney Brian Iller said he wants to talk to Galt Pettet, the district's in-house counsel, and Greg Stevens, a Spokane-based attorney who advises the district, because they have knowledge of the district's review of the extramarital relationship that led to Busey's firing.

"They obviously were involved early on when the relationship first came to light, and the district approved (of it)," Iller told the Herald.

Pettet referred questions on the matter to Michael McFarland, a Spokane attorney representing the district in the lawsuit. McFarland did not return a message left for him last week.

Busey was dismissed in January 2013 for violating his contract's morals clause for the affair and for "threats to misrepresent" the district, as well as other claims, district officials have said. The Richland School Board has since hired Rick Schulte to led the district.

Busey and his attorney have said the relationship only became an issue after it became public knowledge. Busey said he was discriminated against in his firing because of his marital status and the other employee wasn't disciplined. He is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Communication between an attorney and a client is generally considered confidential. There are circumstances under which an attorney can be required to give an opposing side information, court documents said. But the district argues that only applies in specific circumstances and under certain conditions that Iller hasn't satisfied when it comes to Pettet and Stevens, court documents said.

Iller said there is nonprivileged information he should be able to obtain from the attorneys. However, the district also may have waived its right to attorney-client privilege for publicly acknowledging in the past that all its actions regarding Busey were made on the advice of counsel.

Rice is scheduled to issue a ruling on the matter in late March, Iller said.

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

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