Special Reports

Brame hiring inquiry in limbo

The City of Tacoma's stalled administrative investigation of the hiring and promotion of the late Police Chief David Brame might not be so easy to revive, council members learned Tuesday.

Even though a separate criminal investigation of the Brame case is now complete, it's possible that the state attorney general will recommend the city call for yet another outside investigation, this one targeting violations within the Tacoma Police Department, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge said.

There could be "significant violations by a number of people subject to discipline under the rules of the city and police department," said Hauge, one of the leaders of the investigation the city requested the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to conduct.

A separate Internal Affairs investigation, conducted by an outside agency, may be needed to address those questions, he said. But if WASPC revived its investigation today, it could get in the way of such an inquiry, he said.

It's much the same message council members heard in May when they agreed to halt the WASPC investigation so it wouldn't interfere with a criminal investigation led by the Washington State Patrol.

The discussion came Tuesday afternoon during the City Council's committee of the whole meeting. Council members voiced frustration over the lack of progress in the Brame review and told Hauge the city should look for ways to restart the WASPC investigation.

"It's getting very frustrating for all of us," said Councilman Rick Talbert.

The city got off to a quick start, he said, but since other agencies have become involved, progress has ground to a halt.

"Four and a half months later," Talbert said, "we know nothing."

Other factors Hauge told council members they should consider before resuming the WASPC investigation include:

•The chance that the State Patrol isn't finished with its criminal investigation. The state Attorney General's Office is reviewing the case for possible charges and could still ask the patrol to conduct follow-up interviews.

•The chance that whatever WASPC investigators end up doing may affect the city's defense of a multimillion-dollar claim brought by Crystal Brame's family, including her parents, Lane and Patty Judson.

•The possibility that WASPC investigators could interfere with an FBI investigation into potential public corruption in the City of Tacoma.

"We can do whatever you want, but it's going to have to mesh with these other things," Hauge said.

Council members asked Hauge to look into ways the WASPC investigation might be reopened without interfering with any other investigations. In the meantime, they want to talk with the city's lawyers concerning the Judson family claim.

Hauge said after the meeting that his comments about a possible Internal Affairs investigation were based on a conversation he had with Brian Moran, the lead prosecutor at the Attorney General's Office.

It's too soon to say for sure that one will be requested or who might conduct it, he added.

Gary Larson, spokesman for Attorney General Christine Gregoire, said he was unaware Moran had suggested the city hold off on its police department Internal Affairs investigation.

"To the best of my knowledge, no one has communicated that to the city," he said.

Staff writer Beth Silver contributed to this report.

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542