In December 2001, Tacoma City Manager Ray Corpuz had a choice to make - one that would turn out to be fateful and tragic.
He needed to choose between two finalists for police chief: hometown favorite David Brame or Patrick Stephens, deputy chief of police in Cleveland.
To help him decide, the city's human resources office gave him two briefing books that included executive summaries of reference checks on both men. Assistant human resources director Mary Brown wrote the summaries.
As The News Tribune reported Friday, Brown noted - in an opening note italicized for emphasis - "troublesome" aspects of Brame's reference reports. Her report also contained hints of potentially embarrassing issues in his past. By contrast, the report on Stephens contained nothing but glowing praise from Cleveland community leaders.
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Brame won the nod, to general community approval. On April 26, only 15 months later, Brame shot his wife, then killed himself. Now the community, city officials and the police department are consumed by questions about who knew what and when about Brame's troubled past.
Here are the full texts of the executive summaries of the reference checks, obtained by The News Tribune under public disclosure laws. They have been slightly edited for clarity and length. The names of those whose names were submitted as references by the candidates originally appeared at the top of the summaries; here, they appear at the end.
Assistant police chief, Tacoma
Confidential - Executive Summary
Cynthia Winder did all the reference checks for David Brame. (See list below). Cynthia was unable to make contact with a number of the listed references for various reasons. The following is based on the ones she was able to contact.
Note: From a professional human resources standpoint the references provided by Brame were troublesome. As superiors he listed a former police chief that has not been with the department for six years (and there have been three chiefs since), the county sheriff who has no authority to supervise him (when asked why the sheriff was listed as a superior Brame did not respond) and a retired assistant chief whose spouse reports direct to Brame and who was also listed as a reference. The peers he listed are really direct reports to him.
He did not list the current police chief or fellow assistant chiefs, who are his true peers, all of whom declined to respond to questions regarding Brame's candidacy for chief. He also did not list any references with any other departments within the city.
There have been numerous unsolicited pro and con contacts regarding Brame's potential appointment They have run the gamut from strongly supportive to strongly negative. This is a normal occurrence for an internal candidate. Information from those contacts was not included in this summary.
Generally, Brame was referred to as a "proven commodity," familiar with the department and the issues. Several of the references felt he was deserving of the position because of his desire to be chief, his tenure with the department and his family's history with the department. Some references thought he could find new ways to improve the department.
Most felt that the City Manager should appoint an inside Chief in order for the department employees to get behind any changes that may need to be made and to "heal old wounds." One reference also felt there was a strong polarization within the department that has caused some infighting with supporters and non-supporters of Brame's desire to be chief.
Brame is seen as very well-versed in how the department runs, budget and detail oriented, is organized and keeps up on issues. He was described as being a good listener, "very up front," not afraid of confronting individuals and willing to incorporate others ideas.
All references said he is good at following through with professional commitments to staff and the community. His people skills were described by one as a weakness, as was his ability to speak before groups, but the references thought he could grow in these areas.
None of the references made any comments on his commitment to diversity and only one on his work with various minority sectors of the community.
One reference felt that Dave did not have a lot of community interaction but did have strong family ties to the community.
The Tacoma Fire Department reports that David is often not responsive to them or helpful in coordinating issues, and he often does not return phone calls. They do not perceive him as being a team player within the greater City family.
However, (former mayor Brian) Ebersole's opinion was that David works well with the City Manager and the rest of the team at the City.
The words used to describe Brame were: focused, political, goal directed, approachable, honest, capable, budget conscious, not easily overwhelmed, intelligent, sincere, dedicated, communicable, involved and caring.
(Tacoma Police Union President) Pat Frantz ascribed Brame's strengths as leadership and ability to look at both sides of an issue and then reason out solutions. He feels David is honest, trustworthy and has the ability to build consensus.
Two of the references would want to know more about the other candidate(s) before committing to say they would hire him as chief. All of the others were strongly supportive of his appointment. All thought he had the potential to be a good chief and as the "home-town" person he should get the job.
While not specifically citing what it was, three references indicated there might be something in his past, either personally or professional, that if made public would embarrass him or the City. The indication was that they thought it had been "resolved."
Sound Screening confirmed his college degree and did not find any financial issues. His only civil litigation is the pending Kirby v. City of Tacoma case in which he is a named party
List of references
Supervisors: Paul Pastor, Pierce County Sheriff (unable to make contact); Ray Fjetland, former Police Chief (unable to make contact); Bill Woodard, former Assistant Police Chief
Subordinates: Bob Sheehan, Police Sergeant (unable to make contact); Tim Howatson, Police Lieutenant (unable to make contact); Mark Langford, Police Captain (unable to make contact)
Peers: Catherine Woodard, Police Captain; William Meeks, Police Captain (unable to make contact); Rich McCrea, Police Captain
Community: Lyle Quasim, Pierce County Chief of Staff; Carol Sloman, Northend Neighborhood Council; Brian Ebersole, former mayor
Union: Pat Frantz, President Police Local No. 6
Deputy police chief, Cleveland, Ohio
Confidential - Executive Summary
Reference checks were conducted by: Robin Jenkinson, Ron Stephens, Phil Knudsen, Ray Corpuz, Mayor Crowley, Jim Walton, Mary Brown.
Patrick provided us with a good mix of references including peers, both inside and outside the police department, current and past superiors, current subordinates and community members. We also contacted two union presidents that were not listed by Stephens in order to get a full assessment of his professional history. All of the references were responsive and willing to participate in the process.
Patrick was described by the references as a well-rounded professional police administrator. He is considered the "go-to-guy" when a job needs to get done. The Police Chief said she "never has to worry" when he is in charge of a scene or project. Commander McGrath said that the mayor appoints Stephens as "field commander" on the most difficult assignments which, in his opinion, shows the mayor's faith in Stephens' ability to get the job done right.
He is considered a team player by the other departments in the City of Cleveland. According to TFD, Fire Chief Gerrity gave him the ultimate compliment: "He is such a good guy I wish he was a firefighter."
He has strong leadership skills and is well respected by the community, his superiors, subordinates and peers. John Onolefo says that Stephens works hard with the neighborhoods on crime and disorder issues. He also states that Patrick treats all people with respect and understanding. Stephens is willing to take the heat for the department and never makes excuses for poor services from the department.
Patrick is described as having exceptional communication skills; he is creative "outside-the-box" thinker. He is very straightforward in his approach. Some find that style to be uncomfortable, but all references said that they can count on his honesty and integrity. He is considered the only command officer that is trusted (often by the African-American community) when an excessive-use-of-force claim is brought against the department.
Stephens is credited as being a strong advocate of crime prevention as opposed to just crime response. He was rated very high on his commitment to diversity, and he "walks the talk" on diversity. Cleveland is a very diverse community, and only positive statements were made regarding his commitment to diversity and his treatment of all people.
He is reported by the vast majority of the references to be a good decision-maker, organized and wants to move forward on things quickly. However, he does not make hasty decisions and brings parties together to assess situations in order to make quality decisions.
He can become frustrated or impatient when he can't accomplish tasks he is assigned and may micromanage situations to be sure they are done correctly. He likes to reach out and touch "the process." He can be seen as forceful or "pushy" in his manner; as he processes information more quickly than most, he is usually far ahead of the others he works with. Some people are intimidated because of his physical size and force of personality.
The words most often used to describe Patrick were: confident, intelligent, ethical, integrity, honest, a real leader, team-builder, good follow through, dependable, timely, fixes things, enthusiastic, loves challenges, dedicated, hard worker, methodical, compassionate, loyal, competent, progressive, inclusive, strong willed and very professional. His highest marks came in honesty and integrity.
The commissioned supervisor's union rated him as fair and ethical. The example of his commitment to ethics was that Patrick taught (and still teaches) the ethics class at the police academy. Lt. Rich felt Stephens had an open-door policy and kept them informed of events in a timely manner.
Patrick respects the union, their contract and works within the rules. They agree to disagree on some issues but felt Stephens' rulings have been "fair and reasonable." He said that he has never had a complaint against Stephens by his membership and they have filed very few grievances in Stephens' command.
Lt. Rich felt his membership may see Stephens as "tainted" because he was appointed by a mayor that has the worst working relationship with the unions he has ever known. He said Stephens would be a good Chief anyplace but Cleveland because of the appointment by this mayor.
Bob Beck with the patrol union said it was hard to assess Patrick's strengths and weaknesses because of the nature of the relationship between the unions and the mayor. As a political appointee of the mayor he felt Stephens' authority and autonomy was very limited. He thought Patrick would have tried to find middle ground to resolve and compromise on issues, but the entire command staff is seen as a "puppet" of the mayor and not allowed to take the lead on resolution of issues.
When Stephens was an officer in Internal Affairs, Beck thought he used his "size and position" to intimidate officers. But he felt Stephens had matured and would no longer take that type of an approach. Beck said he personally liked Patrick and that Patrick made himself available to the union. Beck also said he would always listen to the union's position and would act positively within his authority. Beck though Patrick would "fare well" as a chief given our organizational structure.
No one was aware of anything in Stephens past, either personally or professional, that if made public would embarrass the City.
All of the other references, outside of the union's for the reasons stated above, indicated that they would hire Stephens as a police chief without a second thought and felt that he would be a great addition to any management team. The unions felt he would be a good chief outside of Cleveland.
Sound Screening confirmed his college degree, found no indication of financial problems. There were two civil cases; both were dismissed without prejudice.
List of references
William Edwards, First Assistant U.S. Attorney
Chief Kevin Gerrity, Fire
Jeff Patterson, Personnel Director
Barry Withers, Executive Administrative Officer (not included in summary)
Mayor Michael White (not included in summary)
John Onoliefo, Buckeye Development Corp.
Fred Szabo (former Public Safety Director, now Commissioner, Cleveland International Airport)
Michael Wacker, Executive Director, Partnership for a Safer Cleveland
Police Chief Mary Bounds
Commander Michael McGrath
Captain Margaret Downing
Lt. Ray Rich, Union Pres. FOP, (Cpt., Lt., & Sgt.)
Bob Beck, Union President, Patrol Association