Special Reports

City faces more legal problems over Brame

A Tacoma police detective who says she was sexually harassed by Police Chief David Brame filed a damage claim against the city Tuesday, seeking $1.5 million.

Mary Herrman’s claim, the prelude to a lawsuit, is the fifth legal action spawned by the Brame scandal – a tangle of investigations, lawsuits and revelations spurred by the shootings of April 26, 2003, when Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and himself.

Herrman says Brame harassed her repeatedly beginning in November 2002, tried to lure her into a sexual threesome with Brame and his wife and linked Herrman’s participation to a possible promotion. She adds that she received separate phone calls from Crystal Brame, and that other police department employees knew of the chief’s actions but did nothing to prevent them.

Herrman is a key figure in the scandal, though her name has never been used by the media. In May 2003, after learning of the harassment allegations, city leaders placed her on paid administrative leave. She’s been there ever since.

Acting city attorney Elizabeth Pauli would not discuss the details of Herrman’s claim, but said it was no surprise.

“We have known about Mary Herrman’s claims and issues, and we’ve been working closely and diligently with her attorney toward resolution,” Pauli said. “Filing of a claim is a necessary part. We can’t resolve a claim without a claim filing. It’s standard course, it’s expected and it’s necessary.”

Herrman’s attorney, Cliff Freed of Seattle, said he and the city’s legal representatives met several times over the last year to discuss Herrman’s case and a possible settlement. They met most recently in September, accompanied by a mediator. But the two sides could not reach an agreement.

“Mary is an intensely private person,” Freed said. “She wanted to save herself and the city and the taxpayers the anguish of going through some of the things that the city has been going through with other litigation surrounding the Brame matter. We believed we were being extraordinarily reasonable in an effort to avoid being where we are right now.

“Unfortunately, the city was simply not responsive.”

During multiple investigations over the past 18 months, questions rose about Brame’s treatment of Herrman, and what others in the city and police department knew of it. But Herrman has always refused interviews and shunned publicity.

Her claim describes Brame’s actions in detail.

“Chief Brame called me and spoke to me incessantly – at home, at work, during the day, and on my cell phone,” the claim states. “He suggested that I come to his residence; he suggested that he and his wife would rent a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel where we would all have in-room massages; and he suggested other locations. He called me on my cell phone when I was in the car with my boyfriend, and he called me at home when I was with my boyfriend and child.”

The claim adds that Brame punished disloyalty among subordinates, and frequently mentioned her possible promotion.

“Virtually every time Chief Brame spoke to me about his sexual interest, he would say, ‘Now you keep in mind that detective’s position,’ or words to that effect,” the claim states. “These remarks led me to believe that Chief Brame would punish me by denying me a detective position if I did not succumb to his advances.”

Herrman was promoted to detective in December 2002, after scoring second among all officers who took promotional exams. Just before her scheduled swearing-in ceremony Jan. 10, 2003, Brame called her and told her he and his wife would attend “for the sole purpose of fantasizing about different sexual positions involving me,” her claim states. “In this conversation, he once again implored me to participate in a sexual tryst, assuring me that I would ‘have the time of my life.’”

Though Herrman did not accept the chief’s advances, her claim states he falsely told Crystal Brame otherwise, which contributed to the couple’s pending divorce and, ultimately, the shootings.

Herrman notes that other members of the police department believed Brame had a sexual relationship with her, and believed he improperly influenced her promotion.

“These events have forever altered my life, and the way I am perceived by others, have substantially damaged my personal and professional reputation, (and) have exposed me and my family to unwelcome publicity and distress,” the claim states.

Five claims related to Brame

Five damage claims against the City of Tacoma are linked to the David Brame scandal. Three have reached the lawsuit stage. Here are brief descriptions of each:

Claimant: Family of Crystal Brame

Cause of action: Wrongful death

Damages claimed: $75 million

Status: Denied by city, now a lawsuit

Claimant: Sylvia Boskovich of Key Peninsula

Cause of action: Obstruction of justice, failure to investigate alleged rape by Brame

Damages claimed: $2 million

Status: Denied by city, lawsuit pending

Claimant: Tacoma police Detective Mary Herrman

Cause of action: Sexual harassment

Damages claimed: $1.5 million

Status: Filed Tuesday, no response from city

Claimant: Former assistant police chief Ray Roberts

Cause of action: Lost wages and benefits

Damages claimed: $500,000

Status: Denied by city, now a lawsuit

Claimant: Internet publisher John Hathaway

Cause of action: Threats, intimidation

Damages claimed: $99,250

Status: Denied by city, now a lawsuit

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com