Special Reports

Attorneys won't ask to invoke privilege

Tacoma's top two city attorneys said Wednesday they have no plans to seek individual protection in court from the city's waiver of attorney-client privilege in the David Brame case.

That means City Attorney Robin Jenkinson and her chief assistant, Elizabeth Pauli, can talk about a crucial meeting with Human Resources Director Phil Knudsen and his assistant, Mary Brown, the day before Police Chief David Brame killed himself and fatally wounded his wife. The HR officials reportedly recommended that Brame's gun and badge be revoked.

Jenkinson has scheduled a press conference at 10 a.m. next Wednesday to discuss the case.

Jenkinson and her staff, citing attorney-client privilege, have refused so far to answer questions about how her office advised City Manager Ray Corpuz about Brame's conduct. It was not clear Wednesday exactly what Jenkinson might have to say.

The City Council on Tuesday granted a waiver that frees the city's attorneys from the legal shackles that prevent them from speaking about the case of a client - namely the city - unless the client says it's OK.

But the council's action gives city officials and employees who think they still need individual protection seven days to hire their own attorney and go to court to preserve their legal rights.

Both Jenkinson and Pauli said they won't seek protection from the city's waiver.

Knudsen and Brown also said they don't need any additional attorney-client protection.

"It's just fine with me," Brown said. "I will not be going to court to stop it." Knudsen agreed. "I don't have any plans on seeking to maintain privilege," he said.

Corpuz, now on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, could not be reached for comment about whether he might ask the court to preserve his right to attorney-client privilege.

Assistant city attorney Shelley Kerslake, whose knowledge appears central to the case, also could not be reached for comment.

Jenkinson might answer questions next week on whether she or her staff passed along information about a 1988 rape allegation against Brame before Corpuz appointed him chief in December 2001.

Through depositions filed in a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against the city by police officer Joe Kirby, Kerslake knew about the rape allegation a year before Brame's appointment.

But Kerslake, acting on behalf of the city, worked to prevent the allegation from being disclosed - first by blocking questions related to it, then by sealing court records in the lawsuit that mentioned it.

In recent weeks, Kerslake refused to say whether she'd told Jenkinson or Corpuz about the allegation.

After rebuffing numerous questions from the press, Jenkinson issued a simple statement May 8 saying:

"As much as I and the other attorneys named in the media would like to defend our personal honesty and integrity, ethical and legal obligations to the City are paramount. We will continue to respect those obligations.

"The City of Tacoma's legal department will not comment any further."

Attorney-client privilege also has limited city attorneys' cooperation with a joint federal and state investigation, prompting state Attorney General Christine Gregorie to ask the council for the waiver.

Investigators want answers to several questions about how a man with Brame's history got to be chief and how accusations of domestic violence against him were ignored by city officials.

In granting the waiver, a rare legal maneuver, City Council members made it clear they want the public to know what happened in the Brame case - and they want flaws in city policies found and fixed.

"This is an extraordinary time and an unbelievably horrific event which has occurred," Mayor Bill Baarsma said Tuesday night. "In the end, the truth will set us free."

Staff writer Martha Modeen contributed to this report.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659