Special Reports

City may free attorneys to talk

Tacoma City Council members may decide Tuesday to waive their attorney-client privilege with City Attorney Robin Jenkinson and her staff, freeing them to publicly discuss certain issues in the David Brame case.

"I think it's important that everything come out, subject to not compromising the investigation," Mayor Bill Baarsma said.

At least four of the nine council members - Baarsma, Bil Moss, Mike Lonergan and Sharon McGavick - appeared to be in favor of passing such a resolution. Kevin Phelps said he needed to know more before he could render an opinion. Others couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

"I think we have committed to citizens that we will bring out all the information and share it with them," Moss said.

Lonergan was working on a resolution to free Jenkinson and her staff from restrictions of "privilege and confidentiality" Lonergan said.

Jenkinson's staff has refused to discuss reports that an assistant city attorney knew about a rape allegation against Brame 11 months before he was appointed chief.

Citing attorney-client privilege, they've also declined to say how they responded to an April 25 recommendation from top human resources officials that Brame's gun and badge be revoked because of domestic violence allegations made by his wife, Crystal, in divorce proceedings.

The next day, Brame fatally shot Crystal with his department-issued handgun and then committed suicide.

"As much as I and the other attorneys named in the media recently would like to defend our personal honesty and integrity, our ethical and legal obligations to the City are paramount," Jenkinson said in a statement issued Thursday.

Attorney-client privilege and confidentiality rules keep lawyers' lips sealed unless their client's say it's OK for them to discuss their case.

Lonergan said he would limit the waiver to information concerning a lawsuit filed by police officer Joe Kirby against the city in 1999. But McGavick appeared to favor an even broader release.

"I think we need to err on the side of openness in getting this stuff out," she said. "I just think our credibility is at stake. ... The truth has to come out about who said what when and what did people do."

Lonergan said he'll ask for an open discussion of the waiver issue, rather than a closed-door executive session.

"We're trying to avoid them whenever possible," he said of such private sessions. "We're not trying to conduct business in secret."

He's pushing the waiver resolution, he said, to make sure city attorneys can disclose information to investigators.

Chip Holcomb, a senior counsel with the state Attorney General's Office, said the City Council can waive attorney-client privilege, but the law is murky on just how far that waiver might extend.

City Manager Ray Corpuz, who is on administrative leave, declined to comment on the rape allegations against Brame Wednesday, saying he didn't "want to violate the City Council's clear direction for an impartial investigation."

While it's true the investigation must be impartial, that doesn't preclude anyone with information from sharing it with the public, several council members said.

Acting City Manager Jim Walton urged employees to cooperate with investigators and listen to their hearts on the issue of whether to talk publicly about the case.

"That choice is yours," he wrote in a memo to staff. "No one from this office has or will ask you to refrain from talking to the media."

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659

kris.sherman@mail.tribnet.com

• The Tacoma City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 747 Market St.

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