Tempe Union High School District’s four-month battle to keep secret the personnel file of Superintendent James Buchanan ended Tuesday with the release of 641 pages of mostly dry evaluations.
No disciplinary records exist during Buchanan’s 13-year tenure, and the only negative item in the file is an Aug. 25 "letter of direction" from the governing board that warns Buchanan to "pay particular attention to the appropriate use of District resources" and to avoid immoral conduct.
The letter is related to a district woman’s allegations that Buchanan began stalking her after an extramarital affair ended in February.
Buchanan acknowledged the affair June 25 in a public statement, but has said the allegations of stalking are without merit.
The woman obtained an order of protection against Buchanan on May 22 in Chandler Justice Court.
Buchanan said from his home Tuesday night that he is relieved to finally see an end to speculation about the contents of his file.
"It’s important for me to make sure that the public understands that I have nothing to hide," Buchanan said. "What you’re going to find is that a lot of that stuff is routine and expected."
The district granted access to Buchanan’s records in exchange for an agreement with Phoenix Newspapers not to seek reimbursement of its attorneys’ fees accumulated in a lawsuit filed this August in Maricopa County Superior Court.
A judge ordered the district to release the contents of Buchanan’s personnel file on Nov. 18, but the governing board voted the next day to challenge the ruling in the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Governing board member Daniel Perkins said the district’s fight to keep Buchanan’s records confidential had nothing to do with any scandalous material the board was trying to hide.
He said the board fought the legal action because it believed — and still does — that the release of personnel records damages the evaluation system.
"That’s why we tried so hard to protect it," he said. "It was an issue much larger than Jim Buchanan."
Buchanan’s three-year contract with the district expires June 30, and the governing board has already started the evaluation process for a new contract.
"It’s about a three-month long process," Perkins said.