Star lawsuit pressing TUSD to release candidates' names

2013-07-24T00:00:00Z Star lawsuit pressing TUSD to release candidates' namesPatrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

An attorney for the Arizona Daily Star asked a judge Tuesday to require the Tucson Unified School District to release the names and application materials of the candidates it considered for the superintendent's job.

"Certainly, the four people who were interviewed twice for this position should be made public," said attorney Dan Barr, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the newspaper.

No ruling was made Tuesday.

The Star filed the case in Pima County Superior Court in June after TUSD announced H.T. Sanchez was the sole candidate for the district's superintendent position.

TUSD has since hired Sanchez, who had been interim superintendent of Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas.

Barr argued to Judge James Marner that the public's right to know the candidates' names and to review their application materials outweighed the privacy of applicants.

"When somebody interviews for a public position, their résumé becomes open for public inspection," Barr said.

Barr cited a case from 1991 where the Arizona Board of Regents was compelled to release similar materials in its search for the president of Arizona State University.

TUSD, through its attorneys Lisa Anne Smith and Sesaly Stamps, both from the firm DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, argued that the interviews of the candidates were conducted in executive session and therefore exempted from public inspection.

"The public is not entitled to notice of who the individuals are who are being discussed," Smith said.

TUSD attorneys argued that state law does not require the district, or other public entities, to disclose the names of people not hired for a public position.

TUSD attorneys and witnesses they presented who have worked in the selection process for superintendents and college presidents said the disclosure of applicant identities would harm the individuals professionally and make it more difficult for public entities to find qualified applicants.

"The harm to TUSD and its next search, and all school districts, is virtually guaranteed," Smith said.

Barr said TUSD was playing "a cynical shell game" by trying to conceal the names and application material in executive session and arguing that a public harm would befall the community if the identities were revealed.

"If it were as they portray this, they could point to someone, someplace who has been harmed," Barr said.

TUSD witnesses could not name specific individuals who were harmed by such disclosures.

Throughout TUSD's superintendent search, the district sought to maintain high levels of confidentiality.

The district hired an outside consultant to find candidates and made great efforts to hide the candidates once they were brought in for the interviews.

A security plan the district filed with its court papers showed that safety officials parked two box trucks on either side of the parking spaces the candidates were directed to park in at TUSD offices to conceal them from view.

Candidates were moved swiftly into TUSD offices and escorted to private rooms to prevent the candidates from coming into contact with one another.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@azstarnet.com. Follow on Twitter @pm929.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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