Special Reports

'Allegations' on Corpuz conduct are focus of council resolution

A resolution proposed by three Tacoma City Council members would clear the city's lawyers to discuss "allegations concerning the conduct" of City Manager Ray Corpuz as well as of the late Police Chief David Brame.

But the proposal appears to allow them to talk only about matters raised in a 1999 lawsuit that includes claims the police department gave Corpuz and his wife preferential treatment, and that Brame might have raped a woman in 1988.

The resolution, proposed by Councilman Mike Lonergan and sponsored by council members Connie Ladenburg and Bill Evans, was drafted with the advice and approval of the city attorney's office. It was put on hold Tuesday when the council voted to seek an outside legal opinion before waiving its attorney-client privilege.

It reads in part, "Whereas certain allegations concerning the conduct of the late David Brame and also Ray Corpuz Jr. became known to attorneys within the City Attorney's Office in conjunction with the Joseph Kirby lawsuit ..."

State Attorney General Christine Gregoire urged council members Monday to allow broader disclosure by city attorneys so state and federal investigators could get "information that may be relevant" to a criminal investigation into the Brame case.

Brame, whom Corpuz appointed Tacoma's police chief in 2001, fatally shot his wife and then committed suicide on April 26. Gregoire promised "a rigorous, independent and thorough criminal investigation into this troubling case" - a vow widely interpreted to mean scrutiny of city and police department hiring and management actions, as well Brame's pulling of the trigger.

The wording of the draft resolution appears to be the first time any city document has mentioned allegations about Corpuz's conduct, although concern about his actions are inherent in a city-ordered administrative investigation into Brame's career.

Some allegations about Corpuz are contained in depositions filed in the 1999 lawsuit against the city by police officer Joseph Kirby.

They include claims that Corpuz and his wife, Lynda, got preferential treatment from Tacoma police when Lynda Corpuz filed a burglary complaint in 1997, and that Police Chief Philip Arreola violated the law when he told Corpuz that police were looking into the burglary complaint as possible insurance fraud.

Lynda Corpuz was placed on probation in 1998 after admitting she filed $10,000 worth of false insurance claims, although at one point she claimed a nearly $30,000 loss.

Ray Corpuz said at the time he had no knowledge of the false claims, and Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge, called in to investigate the case, said there wasn't "sufficient evidence" to connect Ray Corpuz to the fraud.

Hauge's office also determined Arreola committed no crime.

Hauge is now in charge of the city's administrative investigation into the Brame case, including how Brame was promoted to chief and why city officials ignored allegations of domestic abuse by Brame's wife, Crystal.

On Tuesday, Hauge advised the City Council to be cautious before waiving its attorney-client rights. That privilege prevents city attorneys from discussing Tacoma's legal matters without approval of the council.

Lonergan said the city's attorneys told him "they would like very much to explain to investigators ... what they did with allegations that were in the Kirby lawsuit."

The files were sealed until last week at the request of assistant city attorney Shelly Kerslake because the city's legal staff felt the allegations were "only meant to harass and embarrass the individuals," Lonergan said.

Lonergan said he cleared the wording of the draft resolution with two members of the city attorney's office, who in turn checked it with a Portland legal expert recommended by the Washington State Bar Association.

While he favors getting all the information out as soon as possible, Lonergan said he felt it best to limit the waiver to information about the Kirby lawsuit.

Gregoire requested a waiver "on all matters relevant to the Brame investigation."

That would seem to include answers to what the city attorney's staff did with recommendations from two human resources officials that Brame's gun and badge be revoked the day before the shootings. Lonergan's resolution does not appear to allow attorneys to talk about that issue.

Evans reluctantly agreed to wait for an outside opinion before waiving the privilege, but when it's waived, he favors giving the city's lawyers wider latitude to talk about the case.

"The ultimate desire is to get to the truth, and we're only going to get to the truth if we have all the information," Evans said.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659


Council to meet

The Tacoma City Council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 747 Market St.