Special Reports

City claims newspaper has no Brame business

City of Tacoma leaders arguing over the sealing of public records have a message for a newspaper: Butt out.

Tuesday, city attorneys filed briefs in King County Superior Court, objecting to The News Tribune's participation in a legal debate, and accused the newspaper of conducting "an end run around the Public Disclosure Act."

The battle over secrecy grows out of a wrongful-death suit filed against the city by the family of Crystal Brame. Her husband, Police Chief David Brame, fatally shot Crystal and then himself April 26, 2003.

The city wants Judge James Cayce to seal records of a Washington State Patrol administrative investigation into the Brame scandal, delivered to Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton almost five months ago. The News Tribune has requested copies of the records under the state Public Disclosure Act. City leaders and the State Patrol have denied the requests. Walton initially said he would release the records within a month. More than four months have passed since then.

The city at first refused to provide the records to plaintiffs in the lawsuit - until Cayce ordered their release. The public still cannot see the records, because the two sides are debating whether they will be sealed under a protective order. Paul Luvera, the attorney representing Crystal Brame's family, opposes the sealing.

"Secrecy in government is absolutely contrary to the right of the people to know what is going on in their city and government - it's un-American," Luvera said Tuesday. "I've seen this report, and I know why they don't want it disclosed. I think the people should see it, and I think the city should reveal its contents."

Luvera said he could not discuss the contents of the report, citing the unresolved debate over the protective order. The city, one of its police unions, former City Manager Ray Corpuz and former assistant police chief Catherine Woodard want the records sealed.

Last week, The News Tribune filed a motion in Superior Court that also opposed sealing the records. Tuesday, the city responded, arguing that the newspaper is wrongly trying to use the civil discovery process to gain access to the report.

"The City of Tacoma objects to the intervention and participation of Tacoma News Inc. (The News Tribune's corporate parent) in any discussion on the issue of whether a protective order regarding the WSP investigation materials should issue," attorneys wrote. "Tacoma News does not have a cognizable interest in the documentation to which it seeks access."

Cayce will hear arguments on the multiple motions Sept. 29.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486