Special Reports

Brame report in, not released

Tacoma city leaders now have the results of a state administrative investigation into the David Brame scandal - but they refused to immediately release them to the public.

On Wednesday, City Manager Jim Walton received a report from the Washington State Patrol that concluded a five-month investigation into allegations of misconduct by at least 32 city and police department employees linked to the Brame case. The News Tribune requested a copy of the report under the state's public records laws. City leaders denied the request and estimated that the records will not be released for another month.

Though the State Patrol has concluded its interviews of employees, submitted its final report to Walton and plans no further investigation, the city released an official statement Wednesday that described the investigation as "ongoing."

"It is the City's position that the WSP administrative investigation is still on-going pending the City Manager's review of the report and subsequent determinations," wrote Elizabeth Pauli, chief assistant city attorney. "The City Manager has estimated that he will complete this process within 30 days."

The report consists of "volumes" of material, Pauli said. It's possible, she added, that Walton might decide the State Patrol overlooked something and ask investigators to pursue it.

"We don't know that until he reviews it," she said.

The State Patrol, under contract with the city to conduct the investigation, referred all inquiries to Walton. Its deference to the city contrasts with the release of an earlier criminal investigation into the Brame scandal, completed last November. At that time, the state released more than 6,000 pages of records as soon as they were available and did not refer requests to the city.

The city's position on the records also reflects the terms of an recently signed agreement between Walton and the Tacoma Police Management Association, which represents 18 lieutenants and captains in the police department.

State investigators targeted eight members of that union during their inquiry. Union members threatened court action to block it, arguing that the investigation violated terms of their collective bargaining agreement. That debate stalled the investigation for three months, until Walton and union leaders agreed on ground rules for interviewing union members.

The April 1 agreement stipulates that no information from the investigation can be released until it is complete and that only information regarding sustained complaints can be released.

The city underscored that point Wednesday in a statement issued by city spokesman Scott Huntley that noted that the investigation includes "information which is essential to effective law enforcement, the protection of individual privacy interests, and the efficient administration of government" as reasons for not immediately releasing the state's report.

The investigation centered on actions taken by employees before Police Chief Brame fatally shot his wife, Crystal, and himself April 26, 2003. State investigators asked whether employees knew about domestic violence in Brame's marriage, his sexual harassment of a female subordinate and death threats he made to his wife, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Much of that information appeared in records of the state's earlier investigation, which concluded that employees committed no crimes but cited multiple examples of potential misconduct that warranted administrative review. Walton and interim Police Chief Don Ramsdell endorsed the inquiry, and the City Council subsequently voted to approve paying the State Patrol up to $200,000 to complete it.

City officials have never identified the 32 employees under scrutiny, but the penalties for their actions could range from reprimands to suspensions.

Apart from the State Patrol probe, a separate investigation by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is examining facets of the Brame case. That investigation is not complete.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

sean.robinson@mail.tribnet.com

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542

jason.hagey@mail.tribnet.com

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