Special Reports

'Bungling' cited in initial search for Brame files

There is no good explanation for the "bungling" that allowed two files containing psychological evaluations of the late Tacoma Police Chief David Brame to languish in the back of a filing cabinet at City Hall, a city spokesman said Thursday.

An employee in the city's Human Resources Department came across them last Friday while cleaning and organizing some old filing cabinets, spokesman Scott Huntley said.

In the months after Brame killed his wife and himself April 26, 2003, officials scoured City Hall looking for the documents.

"They never thought to look for them there," Huntley said. "I'm not sure there's a really good answer for the bungling."

In all, 120 files labeled "Psychological Evaluations - Confidential" were discovered in a locked cabinet outside the human resources director's 13th-floor office. They probably were put there in 1997 after former director Jan Gilbertson retired, Huntley said.

Five files had been opened and one was empty. The others, including the two Brame files, remained sealed.

As soon as the employee found them, Huntley said, she put all the files in a box and sent them to assistant human resources director Mary Brown. Brown found them Tuesday when she returned from vacation. She sent the box to the office of acting City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli later that day.

Before opening the files, city officials consulted with attorneys from Burgess Fitzer, the private law firm defending the City of Tacoma against the lawsuit brought by the family of Brame's slain wife, Crystal.

They opened the files in an 11th-floor conference room with a court clerk acting as a witness. The opening was recorded on videotape.

One of the two Brame files contained several documents from 1981 related to Brame's initial hiring with the Tacoma Police Department.

The second file contained just one document - a 1989 "fitness for duty" evaluation that deemed Brame was capable of performing his job despite enduring the stress of an investigation into an allegation he raped a woman.

The city released all of the newly discovered Brame documents to the public Thursday without any serious discussion of withholding them, Huntley said. The public interest in the documents outweighed any potential privacy interests, he said.

The documents also will go to the 21-member citizens advisory panel appointed by the Tacoma City Council to assess city government in the wake of the Brame scandal and recommend improvements.

Ginny Eberhardt, co-chairwoman of the panel, said she hadn't seen the new material.

It isn't clear what will happen to the rest of the documents, which remain sealed.

There are files on at least one police officer, one firefighter and one human resources employee among the stack, Pauli said.

"I'm just dealing with the Brame piece right now," she said.

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542