Special Reports

Officer suspended one day for e-mail

INTERIM TACOMA POLICe Chief Don Ramsdell suspended an officer for one day for sending an e-mail to a Tacoma Internet publisher in the days after then-Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself.

Ramsdell sustained allegations against Patrick Frantz, who is the president of the police department's largest union, that the April 28, 2003, e-mail to publisher John Hathaway demonstrated unbecoming conduct and insubordination.

The decision was contained in documents released Wednesday, after The News Tribune filed a request under the state's open records law.

Hathaway was not satisfied.

"I don't think the punishment fit the crime," he said Wednesday. "He should have gotten more."

Hathaway and his wife, Carolyn Cohen, filed two claims totaling $99,250 last month against the City of Tacoma. They charged that Frantz's e-mail caused them to fear for their safety and aggravated Cohen's stomach and heart problems.

Frantz could not be reached for comment.

Ramsdell's ruling in late April of this year ended a prolonged investigation into the e-mail. Frantz sent it from his home in response to an editorial cartoon that Hathaway, publisher of The New Takhoman, distributed that day regarding the Brame homicide-suicide two days earlier. The cartoon was critical of one department leader's actions leading up to the homicide-suicide.

Frantz's e-mail, which also was sent to members of the City Council and the mayor, read in part: "If you want to throw stones you had better live in a bulletproof glass house." It also mentioned the first names of two police commanders and said, "We are going to air other factual dirty laundry on others."

Hathaway filed a police report with the Lakewood sheriff's detachment and a criminal investigation was launched. Frantz was placed on paid administrative leave and returned to work in mid-August. State prosecutors ruled the e-mail was not a crime and no charges were filed.

Frantz, who was paid more than $16,500 during his earlier suspension, told investigators he thought the cartoon was a cheap shot. He said the intent of the e-mail was "to get everybody to start working together and quit airing out our dirty laundry to the public," according to the investigative file.

Assistant chief Jim Howatson, who oversees the Operations Bureau, reviewed the administrative investigation of Frantz. In a memorandum to Ramsdell, Howatson wrote that Frantz's actions were "clearly improper and a serious breach of the department's General Rules of Conduct and amount to conduct unbecoming and insubordination."

Howatson also called the statement alluding to the personal lives of the two commanders disturbing, writing that it appeared it was sent to damage the personal lives and professional reputations of the two.

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268