Members of a volunteer citizens group reading through a report on the career of late Tacoma Police Chief David Brame decided Wednesday not to resign in protest following suggestions by some City Council members that they pick up the pace of their work.
But they don't plan on speeding up, either.
The group rallied together after listening to an approximately 40-minute tape recording of a City Council study session in which council members, led by Councilman Tom Stenger, discuss ways the group might finish their work faster.
"Whatever we decide is what they have to accept," said Sondra Purcell of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. "We don't have to give them anything."
Marion Weed, a representative of the Northeast Neighborhood Council, said it was obvious to her that some of the City Council members have not read the minutes of the advisory group's meetings or the charter that created the group.
"They do feel they have control over us, and we need to assert ourselves and let them know we're going to be as independent" as the other groups that have looked into the city's practices since Brame fatally shot his wife and himself last year.
"Let's cowboy up and take care of business," said Ruth Swanson of the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council.
Word that several members of the group were considering resigning at Wednesday's meeting leaked out to City Council members earlier in the day and several council members called members of the advisory group to reaffirm their support.
In the end, only one member resigned. Jon Abels, a representative of the Central Neighborhood Council, quit the group for personal reasons, saying he was overextended.
But he said listening to the tape didn't help.
"I've felt for quite a long time that the City Council is not invested in this process," Abels said. He predicted the group's recommendations will "fall on deaf ears" when they eventually reach the City Council.
The City Council created the 21-member Citizens Advisory Panel in July 2003 to examine the findings of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs inquiry into the Brame affair and to make recommendations to the city on how city government might be improved.
The WASPC report examined Brame's 21-year career with the Tacoma Police Department.
Several factors led to a delay in the report's completion, leaving the advisory group with little to do. The group finally received the report last month when it was released to the public.
A rift between the advisory panel and the City Council developed Tuesday afternoon when Ginny Eberhardt, co-chairwoman of the panel, told council members that the citizens group needed more than the 30 days allotted to them to wade through the 1,500 page document and make recommendations. She suggested an Oct. 1 deadline, a date she believes would be more than adequate.
Stenger then launched into a series of tough questions, asking Eberhardt about the group's apparent lack of progress and suggesting that perhaps they should meet more frequently than every other week.
"To me, my impression is you've got a case of the slows here, that you don't have a deadline and this just goes on and on," Stenger said. He suggested the group be allowed a one-month extension until the end of July.
Eberhardt defended the group, saying they received the report only recently and that everyone in the group is busy.
Several council members agreed that the citizens group hasn't had the report for long, but Stenger wasn't alone in asking the group to look for ways to finish its work sooner.
At its meeting Wednesday, the citizens panel chalked up the incident to politics and frustration on the part of City Council members, who have had little or no control over other investigations triggered by the Brame shootings.
Stenger admitted after the meeting that he is upset with Eberhardt over a statement she made to The News Tribune following his election to the City Council last fall.
The article, published Nov. 9, quoted Eberhardt as saying of Stenger: "He tends to think his solution is the right solution."
When asked about the possibility that some members of the group would resign because of his apparent attack on Eberhardt, Stenger blasted Eberhardt, not only for her performance with the citizens advisory group, but also for her work on the West End Neighborhood Council.
"She can dish it out but she can't take it," Stenger said.
Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542
SIDEBAR: Tempers flair at City Council session
The following is an excerpt of a discussion at Tuesday's Tacoma City Council study session. Ginny Eberhardt, co-chairwoman of a citizens' group reviewing a report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs into the career of David Brame, came to the meeting to ask the council for more time for the group to read the WASPC report and make recommendations. Eberhardt proposed an Oct. 1 deadline. Councilman Tom Stenger didn't think it should take that long. The exchange upset some members of the committee.
Stenger: When was the committee formed?
Eberhardt: The committee was formed, I believe it was on July 1 (2003).
Stenger: Excuse me ma'am, what have you been doing, like, since then? It doesn't seem to me you've made much progress at all.
Eberhardt: Well, it's difficult to make recommendations on a WASPC report when we didn't get the report until the end of May, so we have been meeting, and we have been going over what our objectives and goals were and would be and we're working on those now.
Stenger: Um, I've not seen any goals and objectives yet, from your committee -
Eberhardt: They are -
Stenger: Nor have I seen any -
Mayor Bill Baarsma: Excuse me.
Stenger: I have not seen any preliminary progress. To me, my impression is you've got a case of the slows here, that you don't have a deadline and this just goes on and on.
Eberhardt: Well, Council Member Stenger I think that you're attacking us for no reason, um -
Stenger: Questions, I'm not making attacks.
Baarsma: No, no, no, no.
Eberhardt: Well it feels like an attack right now -
Baarsma: Let her answer.
Eberhardt: Because we have all of the minutes from our meetings are open to the public and in those minutes we had stated what our goals and what our opportunities would be. ... So everything we've done since starting to meet in August of last year is public record.
Stenger: I was asking, ma'am, what your progress is, do you have any preliminary conclusions, do you have any outline of what your report's going to -
Eberhardt: I have.
Stenger: It doesn't seem like you've made a lot of progress here at all.
Eberhardt: We just received the report. We've had one meeting since the report. We meet every two weeks because we are all very busy. We have made progress. ... Each one of the different groups takes it back to their group of people and we're trying to do this in an open way so that we can get recommendations and input from the people.
Stenger: Well, Mr. Mayor, we've had this charter review committee and they divided up into subcommittees and they had several meetings a week, they weren't waiting to only have a meeting every two weeks, and so again, I'd like to see a timeline here because it seems like you're just stretching this out.