Special Reports

E-mails paint a troubled Brame

Two weeks before Tacoma Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and himself, an assistant city attorney told her boss that Brame was in the midst of a messy divorce and "not focused on his work."

Assistant City Attorney Shelley Kerslake also warned City Attorney Robin Jenkinson that some information their office needed from the police department was hung up because Assistant Chief Catherine Woodard was too busy "holding Brame's hand" to get the work done.

Kerslake's comments were made in an April 13 e-mail to Jenkinson.

Other documents obtained by The News Tribune on Friday show that:

•Kerslake, in an e-mail that reads as much as if it was written by a friend as by an assistant city attorney giving the chief of police advice, sent Brame a list of divorce and family law attorneys on Feb. 25, the day after Brame's wife, Crystal, filed for divorce.

•Three days later, on Feb. 27, Kerslake e-mailed Brame the names of a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

Kerslake could not be reached for comment Friday about her e-mails.

In the April 13 e-mail to Jenkinson about a requisition, Kerslake depicted Brame as a man preoccupied with domestic troubles.

"Because the chief is going through a messy divorce (not for public dissemination) he is not focused on his work - so he has assigned Catherine the job of getting the requisition pushed through," Kerslake wrote.

"They have (a) financing package that Catherine was working on and said it would be completed a week ago, but I think she is busy holding Brame's hand," the e-mail continued. "If you have time, can you please bug Catherine periodically to see that the requisition gets to Ray."

Kerslake's comments to Jenkinson came in a Sunday afternoon e-mail written two days after Crystal Brame told a 911 dispatcher that Brame and Woodard had inappropriately used their badges to gain entry into a gated Gig Harbor community.

David Brame went there April 11 to pick up the children, who were staying with their mother at her parents' Canterwood home.

That visit, along with Crystal Brame's complaint to the 911 dispatcher, prompted a group of Tacoma police officers to write an anonymous memo the same day to Internal Affairs Lt. Bob Sheehan.

The officers wanted Brame and Woodard investigated because Crystal Brame said her husband had "threatened to kill her" and that she feared Woodard.

In an April 15 memo, Sheehan said he gave copies of the officers' memo to Woodard and assistant chief Richard McCrea.

Woodard said she would contact City Manager Ray Corpuz about the anonymous complaint, the Sheehan memo continues.

The next day, McCrea told Sheehan "there would be no investigation (of Brame and Woodard) per the city manager," the memo says. "This was due to the fact that the complaint was anonymous."

Corpuz declined to comment on that memo this week. He said the day before the shootings that he considered the Brames' divorce a civil matter and didn't think Brame should be relieved of duty.

In a statement Thursday, police officials noted that Corpuz was the only city official with the authority to order an investigation of Brame. They also said the department followed its policy concerning anonymous complaints.

Kerslake also e-mailed Brame at 7:58 a.m. Feb. 25, the day after Crystal Brame filed for divorce. The message is labeled "Attorney Client Priv - confidential" and begins, "Per our discussion, here are some suggestions."

What follows is a list of six law firms with family or divorce law and child custody either as their primary focus or as part of their practices.

The first entry reads:

"Davies Pearson - contact person: Dick Benedetti (tell him you know me) or Anne Meath" followed by a phone number and the parenthetical warning, "(you may want to tell this is confidential since Joe Diaz works in that firm and is a Minemite)."

"Minemite" apparently refers to police Capt. Charles Meinema, a member of a police department faction out of favor with Brame.

Diaz, a former assistant city attorney who once was Kerslake's boss, said he didn't understand her reference to him in the e-mail.

"I don't know what the motive is behind it," he said. "I get along with Shelley. We've crossed swords a couple times in legal matters where we were on opposite sides."

Diaz said that while in the City Attorney's Office he worked with Meinema on police department issues.

Kerslake's e-mail ends: "If you need anything else do not hesitate to call me."

Brame settled on Davies Pearson to handle his divorce.

Records show Brame called the law firm from his office phone or his city-supplied cell phone 45 times from March 3 through late April. All told, he spent more than three hours on the phone during those conversations.

Kerslake wrote Brame again on Feb. 27, sending an e-mail also labeled "Attorney Client Priv - confidential" and carrying the simple greeting, "Here are the names and number of the people we discussed."

She gave Brame the names and phone numbers of Daniel Banken, a psychologist, and Fletcher Taylor, a psychiatrist, both of whom work at Rainier Associates, a prestigious Tacoma mental health practice.

At the end of that e-mail, Kerslake writes:

"Hey - I forgot to ask you - If you are getting B-ball tournament passes - can you score me 7? I know it's a lot, but I have nephews and a sister who are B-ball crazy!"

The comment apparently referred to the then-upcoming state high school basketball tournaments at the Tacoma Dome.

Two years ago, Kerslake worked on a discrimination lawsuit against the city by police officer Joe Kirby, and Brame's name came up.

She heard testimony that Brame once was investigated for an alleged rape.

Kerslake later got the court records sealed, saying efforts to discover information about the allegation were intended to "harass, annoy and embarrass" Brame and were irrelevant to Kirby's case against the city.

Staff writers Martha Modeen and Sean Robinson contributed to this report.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659