Special Reports

Citizens have leader, mission, no work

The citizens group that will advise the City Council on how Tacoma might better do business following the Brame scandal has a new leader and a stated mission.

But more than three months after Police Chief David Brame fatally shot his wife and killed himself, there's no telling how long they must wait for the work to arrive at their doorstep.

Their job can't begin until the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs completes its investigation into the affair. And that investigation won't fall into place until a criminal investigation by the Washington State Patrol, the Attorney General's Office and the FBI wraps up.

In the meantime, newly selected Citizens Advisory Panel facilitator Richard Hunter Nickell, a North End resident with experience in teaching, team building and management consulting, plans to call the group together soon for a get-to-know-you session.

Some members can't wait to be called into action, believing they can really make a difference. They hope their recommendations will lead to tighter business practices and more honesty and integrity in city government.

Others worry the panel will be little more than window dressing, a potential exercise in futility.

Sondra J. Purcell, an investment adviser who represents the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce on the panel, is in the first group.

"There is no prescribed outcome," she said. "The panel is supposed to analyze the results of the WASPC investigation. We have to see what the investigation shows, then draw up some recommendations."

And panel members do indeed take their charge seriously, Purcell said.

"I think there are people who intend to be heard and that the group's recommendations will be taken seriously," she said. "I don't consider myself a rubber-stamp or a push-things-under-the-rug kind of person."

But Ginny Eberhardt, chairwoman of the West End Neighborhood Council, said bluntly, "My gut level tells me that they (the City Council) will pay attention to WASPC, but they won't pay any attention to what we have to say."

Eberhardt says she hopes the outcome is different, but she's not optimistic.

She holds out more hope for a true healing of the city if "the police on the beat and the neighbors in the neighborhoods all pull together" no matter what investigators conclude or panels recommend.

Ruth M. Swanson, a businesswoman who represents the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council, takes a more optimistic view.

"I don't think this is futile," she said. "This is an independent study that will not involve the City Council at all. Perhaps we can answer some of the questions that some people think are being covered up. I've lived here all my life. I want to know what's going on."

Nickell offered to act as facilitator of the group for free - a bargain compared to the $175 an hour another facilitator might have charged.

City Manager Jim Walton checked out his background and appointed him to the position last week.

"Hunter comes highly recommended," Walton wrote in a letter to the 21-member group. "He has facilitated large and small groups through some difficult issues."

Nickell, 53, sees his job as "opening up the process of communication between the City Council, the panel and the citizens."

The City Council created the Citizens Advisory Panel on July 1 to look at the WASPC investigation findings, talk to the public about them and make recommendations on how to make city government better.

WASPC investigators are charged with scrutinizing city policies and procedures concerning Brame's career and any related issues.

Brame fatally shot his wife Crystal and then committed suicide with his department-issued handgun on April 26, one day after then-City Manager Ray Corpuz refused to put him on leave. Questions had been raised about Brame's fitness for duty after Crystal Brame's allegations of domestic abuse were publicized during divorce proceedings.

Angry Tacoma residents, upset that their police chief had betrayed them and angry that the council picked a law enforcement group to investigate the tragedy, demanded that an independent citizens panel get involved, too.

Led by deputy mayor Bil Moss, the council created one, inviting 21 community groups to nominate representatives.

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659


Brame Citizens Advisory Panel

Here's a list of members of the Brame Citizens Advisory Panel, appointed by the City Council, and the organizations they represent. The council decided which organizations would be represented on the panel, then the groups nominated their own representatives.

Asian Forum: Dr. George Tanbara

Associated Ministries: Rev. Joseph Nixon, Rev. Eugene Wiegman, alternate

Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective: Anthony Clarke

Central Neighborhood Council: Jon Abels, Faye Stubblefield (alternate)

Central Latino SER: George Hermosillo, Michelle Hunsinger, alternate

ENACT: Jesse Hart, Jr.

League of Women Voters: Kathleen Sommers

Municipal League of Tacoma: Sally Salzberg

National Organization for Women: Linda Tosti-Lane

New Tacoma Neighborhood Council: Ruth M. Swanson

North End Neighborhood Council: Chris Webster

Northeast Neighborhood Council: Marion Weed

Pierce County Central Labor Council: Vance Lelli

South End Neighborhood Council: Kevin Newburg

South Puget Sound Chapter, Society for Human Resource Management: Carrie Utic, Janice Truman, alternate

South Tacoma Neighborhood Council: Bruce Petersen

Tacoma United for Fairness: William Whelan

Tacoma-Pierce County Bar Association: Karena K. Kirkendoll

Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce: Sondra J. Purcell

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Anita Chakravarti Hale

West End Neighborhood Council: Ginny Eberhardt