Brame report still out of public eye

Scandal: City's review takes longer than WSP investigation

September 13, 2004 


More than four months have passed since Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton received the results of a Washington State Patrol investigation into the David Brame scandal, and the public hasn't seen a page of it.

Walton's review of the administrative report began April 28. After an initial promise to finish within 30 days, he has extended the deadline four times. The review has lasted longer than the original inquiry.

Last week, while saying he could not give an exact date for completion of his review and public disclosure of the results, Walton said, "We're in the very, very final stages of finalizing that."

The review, which Walton has described as an ongoing investigation, examines allegations of misconduct by 32 city and police department employees, touched in one way or another by the shootings of April 26, 2003, when Police Chief Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and then killed himself.

The city has never identified the employees or the specific allegations against them, which first surfaced in November 2003 after a criminal investigation by the State Patrol and the state Attorney General's Office. The employees committed no crimes, investigators found - but their actions might have violated city and police department rules.

Examples of potential misconduct cited by state investigators include:

•Actions taken by former assistant police chief Catherine Woodard.

•Attendance at Brame's divorce hearing by subordinates.

•The failure of Brame's co-workers to notify city officials of his mental deterioration and preoccupation with sexual topics.

•Knowledge among Brame's co-workers of his sexual harassment of a female officer.

•Knowledge among Brame's co-workers of domestic violence in his marriage.

It's up to Walton to decide whether rules were broken, and determine what sanctions, if any, are warranted.

"Hearing dates are being set for people to meet with me," he said. "People have a right to challenge my determinations."

The administrative report compiled by the State Patrol spans more than 7,000 pages - a bookend to the criminal investigation, which generated about the same number. It includes transcripts of 76 interviews.

Despite records requests from The News Tribune filed under state public disclosure laws, the city has refused to release any of the records. Walton and city attorneys cite the need to protect employee privacy. They say the investigation is ongoing, interviews with employees have continued, and the records are therefore exempt from disclosure.

Information from the State Patrol and the city shows the state assigned five investigators and a secretary to the case and logged 3,508 hours on the investigation. Most of that time falls into the category of "regular" hours, paid for by the state. The city has been billed for 433 of those hours, said finance director Steve Marcotte. The last billing is dated April 4.

Even when the investigation is over, city leaders do not intend to release the entire report. In prior public statements, Walton and city attorneys have said they will release only "sustained" complaints against employees.

While city leaders have not released the records to the public, they were forced last month to give a copy to attorneys for the family of Crystal Brame. Citing the report's potential value as evidence in the family's wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, attorneys demanded a copy in June. The city resisted until King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce ordered release of the records.

The public still can't see the report. Cayce authorized a temporary protective order that seals the records from view while the parties debate the handling of the documents.

Traditionally, court records are open to the public, but city attorneys have asked Cayce to keep them sealed, again citing concerns about employee privacy and the "ongoing" investigation. Attorneys for former City Manager Ray Corpuz, Woodard, and the Tacoma Police Management Association - the union representing the police department's lieutenants and captains - have echoed the city's argument.

Attorneys for the Brame family have argued against sealing. The parties and the judge are to discuss the matter during a conference call Thursday.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

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