Special Reports

City reveals little in Brame report

Few details. No names.

After months of refusing to make public an investigation of alleged misconduct by police and city employees, Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton released a heavily edited version of the report Tuesday. It includes the name of just one of the 32 individuals suspected of wrongdoing: David Brame, the police chief who triggered the investigation by killing his wife and himself last year.

It doesn’t identify anyone else, including a former employee whom Walton has determined improperly shared confidential medical records with his wife. And it blacks out descriptions of all but two of 33 allegations investigators examined.

Walton said the city will not name any of the current or former employees, even those found to have committed misconduct. He said he is constrained by agreements with city employee and police unions from disclosing the names of those involved.

Walton, under pressure to make the investigation public, said the work isn’t finished but that he wanted to release the partial report so people could get “some sense” of what it contained. He said he anticipates completing it by early November.

Walton said tried to balance the public’s interest in knowing what happened against the rights of the individuals involved and the city’s interest as an organization.

During a news conference in which his voice quivered with emotion, Walton said his main interest wasn’t to place blame, but rather to learn how to improve city and police policies.

In addition to the report, Walton announced several proposed policy changes, including some intended to shift the balance of power between the city’s police labor unions and city officials.

He warned that anyone with expectations that “heads would roll” would be “terribly disappointed.”

So would anyone expecting to read “every name and every page” of the investigation, Walton said.

The investigation was one of four resulting from the Brame shootings. It came after a Washington State Patrol investigation found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but rather a “culture of corruption” within the Police Department – and dozens of cases of possible employee misconduct.

In total, Walton and a team of assistants reached 104 conclusions stemming from allegations.

Of those, they found evidence to support “sustained” findings of wrongdoing regarding 12 cases, Walton said. In one case, Walton determined the unnamed employee, who no longer works for the city, violated a rule.

In the 11 other cases, the process hasn’t concluded, Walton said, and the individuals under suspicion still have the opportunity to clear their names.

In seven cases, Walton found conclusions were “not sustained,” 53 conclusions were “unfounded” and 32 conclusions were “exonerated.”

City Council members praised Walton’s efforts and said they will immediately study his recommendations for changes in government. But they also said while the city set out with the best intentions of getting to the truth in the aftermath of the shootings, they now realize many questions may remain forever unanswered.

“There definitely are unknowables,” Councilman Rick Talbert said. “All we can do is continue to turn over rocks and look for answers – be as forthright as possible.”

Both Talbert and Mayor Bill Baarsma said they were eager to take Walton’s suggestions to the appropriate City Council committees for deliberation and possible policy changes.

Baarsma said he believes people now essentially “know the story” of what happened, “but I don’t think we’ll ever get to the definitive truth. We will get as close as humanly possible, but none of us will ever be able to climb into the head of Mr. Brame and really know what happened.”

But Ginny Eberhardt, co-chairwoman of the citizens panel that recently blasted the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs investigation into Brame’s career, said she was deeply disappointed in the report.

“I’m looking at that, and I’m thinking, ‘We wasted all this time waiting for this?’ ” Eberhardt said.

“So who was at fault?” she said. “Does it come down to the fact that David Brame is the only one who was at fault for this? Where was that no-holds-barred investigation into the culture and corruption and everything that happened? Has it all gone down the toilet?”

Eberhardt was confounded that investigators didn’t talk to fired City Manger Ray Corpuz, Walton, Baarsma or any City Council members.

She said she wanted answers to the “who knew what and when did they know it” questions on Brame’s appointment to chief and his crumbling personal life.

“Too many people knew what was going on,” Eberhardt said. “Someone else has got to take some responsibility. We know nothing more now than we did then.”

“It’s Tacoma as usual,” said Lara Herrmann, a Tacoma attorney and spokeswoman of Women for Justice. “It doesn’t change the culture. It tells me that the culture’s going to stay the same.”

The 200-some pages released Tuesday represent roughly 3 percent of the 7,000-page State Patrol investigation.

In court records from a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city filed by the family of Crystal Brame, city officials said the report included transcripts of 76 interviews, along with summaries of those interviews and summaries of the overall investigation.

Paul Luvera, the attorney representing Crystal Brame’s family, said he intends to use the investigation in the case. He said he would like to make it public, but a protective order prevents it.

“The city’s not really being honest with the citizens of Tacoma when they say they can’t hand it out because of the Public Disclosure Act,” Luvera said. “They got lawyers to go to court and prevent it from being disclosed. That’s the only reason it wasn’t disclosed.

“I am disappointed that the city has not been honest and forthcoming, and has not done what they said they were going to do. They said they were going to be truthful, they were going to cooperate, and they were going to have full disclosure. They have hired lawyers to do exactly the opposite.”

The full report is posted on the city's Web site: http://www.ci.tacoma.wa.us/tacomanews/