Special Reports

Brame references troubled evaluators

Tacoma human resource officials told City Manager Ray Corpuz in 2001 that David Brame had "troublesome" reference checks on his police chief application, and past issues that could embarrass the city, if made public.

Brame committed suicide Saturday at a Gig Harbor shopping mall after shooting his estranged wife, Crystal, in the head.

Since then, Corpuz and the Tacoma Police Department have been questioned about records or events that did not surface earlier. They include a police Internal Affairs investigation of Brame's alleged rape of a woman in 1988 and a psychological evaluation indicating he should not be hired as a police officer.

Corpuz said repeatedly he never read Brame's personnel file before hiring him as chief, but instead relied on personnel information given to him by the city's human resources department.

Records obtained by The News Tribune on Thursday show that Mary Brown, Tacoma's assistant director of human resources, wrote in 2001 that Brame's references were problematic because of omissions and inaccuracies.

"From a professional human resources standpoint, the references provided by Brame were troublesome," she wrote during the police chief selection process.

In the personnel information given to Corpuz, Brame:

•Failed to include as "supervisor" references three police chiefs he served under most recently.

•Inaccurately listed as a "supervisor" the Pierce County sheriff, who had no supervising authority over him.

•Listed subordinates when asked to offer "peer" references.

•Listed as a reference the spouse of a former assistant chief who still reported to him.

•Did not list his then-chief as a "supervisor" reference or his fellow assistant chiefs as "peer" references. In follow-up questions from the Tacoma human resources department, none of the three would respond to any questions about Brame's candidacy. None of the three could be reached for comment Thursday.

Brown and her boss, Phil Knudsen, said Thursday they told Corpuz in 2001 they considered Brame's references to be red flags because of their omissions.

"I walked through each paragraph with him," Brown said, describing a verbal briefing on the candidates she gave to Corpuz.

Corpuz could not be reached for comment Thursday, despite repeated attempts. Earlier this week, Corpuz said he could not have foreseen Brame's violent actions.

The information Brown and Knudsen provided to Corpuz 16 months ago included a copy of the two finalists' résumés, comments made by people listed as references, and a summary of a computerized job-skills test. Sound Screening, a company hired by the city, performed background checks on Brame and his competitor, Patrick Stephens, a Cleveland deputy police chief. Sound Screening researched civil, criminal, financial and academic records on both.

The News Tribune on Thursday obtained an executive summary of the city's report on the two finalists through state disclosure laws.

Three references in the summary indicated that "there might be something in (Brame's) past, either personally or professional, that if made public, would embarrass him or the city." The references did not specifically cite what that might be. Brown did note that all three of these Brame references, not named in the summary, said they thought the issue likely was "resolved."

Brame was described by his references as "focused, political, goal-directed, approachable, honest, capable, budget-conscious, not easily overwhelmed, intelligent, dedicated, communicable, involved and caring."

Stephens was described as "confident, intelligent, ethical, honest, a real leader, a team-builder, dependable, fixes things, loves challenges, dedicated, hard worker, methodical, loyal, competent, compassionate, inclusive, strong-willed and very professional."

Brown also gave Corpuz a verbal summary of concerns she described as "rumors" about Brame. Brown declined to disclose the substance of those comments.

Despite their concerns, Knudsen and Brown say they saw nothing that would have indicated Brame could become violent. Nor did Corpuz have any information like that, Knudsen and Brown said.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Knudsen said of Brame's suicide and attempted murder. "You could live 100 years and never be involved in anything like this."

Martha Modeen: 253-597-8646

martha.modeen@mail.tribnet.com

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