Special Reports

Brame at heart of police labor feud

A new labor dispute between Tacoma police commanders and City Manager Jim Walton surfaced Wednesday, further complicating a protracted investigation of the David Brame scandal.

The argument revolves around Walton's handling of an administrative investigation into the Brame case that examines 33 allegations of potential misconduct by at least 32 city and police department employees. Investigators from the Washington State Patrol conducted the inquiry, and sent their report to Walton April 28. The 12-volume report has not been disclosed to the public.

On May 18, Walton formed a four-member review team to help him assess the report, which stretches across thousands of pages. Tacoma police commanders object to that decision, and say it violates their collective bargaining agreement with the city.

Their 18-member union, the Tacoma Police Management Association, filed a motion in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday, seeking an injunction to stop the review team from acting further. The union has also filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state Public Employment Relations Commission.

According to Capt. Mark Langford, president of the association, Walton should have negotiated with the union before appointing the review team.

"We asked him to sit down and work it out with us," Langford said. "He said he would consider it. Now with this review team, he's brought in people from outside of city government to assist in the process."

Walton suggested Wednesday that the union is treading on his discretion.

"It never occurred to me that every thought and every thing I wanted to do, I'd have to get them to OK it," he said.

Langford said the presence of the review team violates a memorandum of understanding agreed to by Walton and the association before the investigation began. The memorandum stated, "Once the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the City Manager for review and disposition."

Walton said his review team doesn't violate that provision.

"The police chief utilizes his staff to do an investigation, come up with a report and provide the information," Walton said. "He will review all that information and make a determination. That's exactly what I'm doing here."

The review team consists of assistant city attorney Jean Homan, private practice attorney Greg Murphy, retired FBI agent Doug Aukland and acting human resources director Woodrow Jones. Murphy was assigned to review sections of the report that involve the Tacoma City Attorney's Office and avoid possible conflicts of interest. Aukland has served as the city's liaison with other federal and state investigative agencies involved in the case.

Walton said the union's actions will not delay his continuing review, but he declined to predict when it will be finished.

"We will do a good job as quickly as we can," he said. "I'm not close enough to give a date."

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486