Tacoma city attorneys will soon be free to tell what they know about the David Brame case, the City Council decided Tuesday.
The waiver of attorney-client privilege will allow the attorneys to talk to federal and state investigators, and to the press and the public, without violating a legal principle that dates back to the 16th-century days of Queen Elizabeth I.
But the waiver applies only to the Brame case, and it does not take effect for seven days. It also does not apply to events after May 4, the date the city began its official investigation into the case.
City Attorney Robin Jenkinson said her office will reply to media requests for interviews through the city's communications office.
City spokeswoman Carol Mathewson said she expects to arrange a press conference with Jenkinson next week, probably on Tuesday.
Brame shot himself to death April 26 after fatally shooting his wife, Crystal.
The week delay gives individual city employees or city officials time to seek protection of their personal attorney-client privilege in court, if they choose. Tim Leyh, one of two Seattle attorneys who advised council members Tuesday on the extremely rare and tricky legal issue, urged them to include the seven-day interval because the council can waive the privilege only as it pertains to the city, not to individuals.
"And that would include the City Manager (Ray Corpuz) if he felt the need to go to court and protect his interests?" Mayor Bill Baarsma asked during an afternoon council session.
"That's exactly right," Leyh replied.
Corpuz is among several defendants in a $10 million discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by police officer Joe Kirby.
Information stemming from depositions in that lawsuit, as well as actions by Corpuz and other city officials in relation to Brame's career and conduct, are at the heart of two investigations - a criminal one by state and federal investigators and an administrative audit ordered by the council - in the Brame case.
Investigators, as well as angry citizens, want to know how Brame was hired as a rookie cop in 1981 despite flunking a psychological evaluation; how he was promoted to police chief in 2001 despite a rape allegation in his past, and why no one took away his gun and badge after his wife's allegations of domestic abuse became public in a messy divorce case.
The questions include exactly what city attorneys knew about the 1989 rape allegation against Brame, the fact that some police officers believed it and whether that information got to Corpuz before he appointed Brame to the chief's job.
Also at issue is whether city attorney's office staff members told Corpuz about recommendations from two city personnel officials that Brame's gun and badge be revoked the day before the shootings.
The city's attorneys, invoking the attorney-client privilege doctrine, have refused to publicly discuss those issues.
The council's intent is to permit the attorneys "to speak publicly about the information they heard, when it was heard, whom they informed of the information, when the information was provided, and any follow-up conversations and any actions that were taken as a result of passing on that information," the waiver says.
It passed on a 7-0 vote.
"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," Councilman Mike Lonergan told about 75 people attending the council meeting. "Attorney-client privilege is a longstanding premise of American law. It's not something you waive lightly."
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659
Council creates citizens panel
In other action Tuesday, the Tacoma City Council created a 21-member Citizens Advisory Panel to:
•Suggest community resources or experts the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs might use in its fact-finding audit on behalf of the city.
•Communicate with citizens on the audit.
•Gather community input on ways to implement the findings of the audit. Deputy mayor Bil Moss said she hopes the panel can be formed and meet as early as next week. Its 21 members will represent the city's eight neighborhood councils and a variety of civic, business and community organizations.