Special Reports

City settles claim over Brame

Tacoma closed a long chapter in the David Brame scandal Tuesday. City leaders agreed to pay $750,000 to Mary Herr-man, a police detective who said she was sexually harassed by the police chief who fatally shot his wife and himself in April 2003.

The agreement averts another lawsuit related to the scandal. The city is defending five at the moment.

Herrman’s case never reached the courts. Settlement talks started before she filed a formal damage claim in December 2004.

Had Herrman filed suit, the city’s lawyers would have faced a stern test. Records from multiple investigations show that some of Brame’s co-workers knew of his behavior, but did nothing.

In her initial claim, and in statements to state investigators, Herrman said Brame tried to lure her into a sexual threesome with his wife, Crystal, and pointedly mentioned a promotion Herrman was seeking.

Herrman said she refused Brame’s advances, and got the promotion anyway. But the chief kept calling and pursuing her.

Brame told his wife and a handful of co-workers, including then-assistant police chief Catherine Woodard, about his interest in Herrman. Various accounts in public records suggest that he distorted the circumstances, telling colleagues that both Herrman and Crystal were interested in a liaison.

His behavior angered Crystal Brame, and might have hastened her decision to file for divorce in February 2003. The shootings followed two months later.

Tuesday, the City Council accepted the settlement agreement unanimously. The process took about 30 seconds. Apart from voting “aye,” members didn’t say a word.

Herrman’s attorney, Cliff Freed, said the agreement was welcome, but his client saw little cause for joy.

“Mary wants to say that it’s just very, very sad that it all came to this,” Freed said. “It’s very sad that David Brame was allowed to do all this and it’s very sad that he affected so many lives, so many innocent people. One of the things that I think is upsetting is that we still don’t know, after two years, how all of this was able to come about.”

Though Herrman, 34, hasn’t worked since May 2003, shortly after the shootings, the city never stopped paying her salary. Freed said factoring that into the settlement raises the total to roughly $910,000.

As sexual harassment claims go, it’s a big number, he said, especially in the absence of a lawsuit or a trial.

Under the terms of the agreement, Herrman will leave the police department. She’ll carry a letter of recommendation from Police Chief Don Ramsdell – a handy reference if she seeks police work elsewhere.

Whether she will is uncertain, Freed said. She hasn’t decided.

“This settlement will allow her to find what she wants to do for the rest of her life,” he said.

For two years, Herrman has refused to comment publicly on her claim. Tuesday, after the vote, she offered a brief statement.

“I’m relieved,” she said. “But I have to say this isn’t the way I wanted things to happen.”

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486