Rumors of extramarital affairs involving Tempe Union High School District Superintendent James Buchanan came to the governing board’s attention as early as 1994, district evaluation records show.
“There seems to be . . . too many community rumors running about concerning interest in women other than wife,” an anonymous governing board member wrote in Buchanan’s 1994 evaluation. “This is very difficult to deal with and reflects on the district. Staff ‘buzz’ about this also.”
In 1995, two district employees raised similar concerns.
“It is well known that as a married man he has had more than one affair with faculty and district employees,” one staff member wrote. “This is not acceptable behavior for one in his position, and the board should take action to stop it.”
Another staff member wrote in 1995 that rumors “run rampant” about “unprofessional conduct with female personnel.”
Buchanan, who came under fire in June after he acknowledged an extramarital affair with a parent in the district, is scheduled to respond to his 2003 evaluation at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in a closed meeting with the governing board.
Within the next few weeks after that meeting, the governing board will vote on whether to renew Buchanan’s $120,000-per-year contract, which expires June 30.
“I expect we will take a vote on his contract in the very near future,” governing board member Dan Perkins said.
Despite occasional negative comments, Buchanan’s evaluations have been mostly positive since the district hired him in 1991.
In response to the rumors from 1994 and 1995, Buchanan said last week that the allegations were unfounded and required no investigation by the governing board.
“There was no merit, and there was no follow-up,” he said.
All staff and governing board comments included with Buchanan’s evaluations are anonymous, and Buchanan said the anonymity sometimes enables rumors to be passed on more easily.
“If I have heard something with no proof, and I want to pass that along, in an anonymous environment it’s pretty easy for me to do that,” he said.
Nevertheless, Buchanan said he supports the anonymous surveys distributed annually to every district employee because they allow staff members to comment on his job performance without fear of retribution.
Former governing board member Mary Frances Lewis, who served as a board member from 1979 through 2002, said she does not recall specific conversations among board members about allegations of extramarital affairs in the 1990s.
“In hindsight, it looks like maybe we should have talked about it,” she said.
Lewis said the governing board typically did not pay close attention to rumors about Buchanan’s relationships, and nobody ever contacted the board personally with complaints.
“The majority of the board would respond with, ‘That’s his personal life,’ ” she said.
Regardless of what might have happened in the 1990s, Lewis said Buchanan’s extramarital affair in 2003 constitutes a breach of his contract, which lists “immorality” and “unprofessional conduct” as grounds for termination. She said many in the community share that view.
Governing board member Robin Arredondo-Savage said parents in the district have expressed concerns to her about Buchanan’s conduct, and she will share those concerns with Buchanan in their meeting on Thursday.
Some concerns expressed relate to allegations that surfaced after Buchanan’s three-month relationship with the married Ahwatukee Foothills woman ended. In May, the woman obtained an order of protection against Buchanan that accuses him of stalking and harassing her after their relationship ended in February.
Phoenix police have also questioned Buchanan in an investigation related to a series of crude, anonymous letters mailed to the woman’s home this summer. Those letters include sexual references to the woman’s daughter, who is a senior in the district.
In a statement circulated in November, Buchanan said he has cooperated fully with police.
“I categorically deny (the) allegations that I sent these letters or that I am somehow responsible for them being sent,” he wrote.