Special Reports

Brame's psychological evaluation exempt from disclosure

A negative psychological evaluation and other items left out of the David Brame personnel file given to The News Tribune two years ago apparently were part of a separate "pre-employment" file and exempt from public disclosure.

Heidi Wachter, city attorney for Lakewood and a former assistant Tacoma city attorney, said Friday she did not recall dealing with the request for Brame's file.

But answering such requests was part of her job at the time, and she probably reviewed Brame's file before giving it to the newspaper, she said.

"If there was a psychological evaluation, I would've wondered what it was doing there," Wachter said. "It would have been unusual."

Pre-employment files containing such documents are kept by the police department's hiring officer, Steve Shake, and were off-limits to her when she served as the department's legal adviser, she said.

Documents in such files are exempt from public disclosure, she said, and she would not have provided them to the newspaper had she seen them.

The newspaper asked for Brame's file Dec. 11, 2001, when he was under consideration for the chief's job. The city turned over about 140 pages.

Earlier this week, the city released a more complete file, which included the pre-employment paperwork and documents added since Brame became chief.

It was unclear Friday who decided what new information to include. No one in the city attorney's office could be reached. Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said he didn't know who assembled the file.

The expanded file, with at least another 60 pages, contained Brame's original employment application, résumé, police academy evaluation and several probation review documents.

Included only in the later file was a 1981 psychological evaluation by psychologist Steven Sutherland in which he recommended the city not hire Brame as a police officer.

Other items missing from the first file but not considered part of Brame's pre-employment file might have been withheld for other legal reasons, Wachter suggested.

The state's Public Disclosure Act provides for some privacy exceptions, including pre-employment information.

Brame, who became Tacoma police chief in January 2002, shot his wife, Crystal, on April 26 and then committed suicide.

Since the shootings, the police department has called for an outside review of Brame's rise from a patrol officer to chief. City Manager Ray Corpuz has said he did not review Brame's entire personnel file before appointing him chief.

Wachter described the newspaper's request as routine and said she probably went through the Brame file looking for documents or information to withhold before releasing it.

Brame's police academy evaluation and probation review documents, for example, would fall under a disclosure exemption covering the release of routine evaluations, she said.

Brame apparently was placed on probation as a matter of policy following various promotions.

Chip Holcomb, senior counsel at the state attorney general's office, agreed that in most cases, information that is considered pre-employment or part of a routine job evaluation is exempt from public disclosure.

However, the law doesn't provide a blanket exemption and public agencies can exercise discretion over the release of certain materials, he said.

Jason Hagey: 253-941-9634