Special Reports

1,513 pages, but Brame report has little new

Results from the latest investigation of the David Brame scandal span 1,513 pages.

They read like reprints, because most of them are.

The administrative review, released Friday by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, is the second major investigation into the Brame case. Containing almost no new investigative material, it reflects an inquiry that started with a broad focus, and ended with narrow conclusions.

Because of the limited investigation authorized by the Tacoma City Council, the WASPC review, which cost the city an estimated $7,400, is a compendium of records the public has already seen - documents gathered by the Washington State Patrol during a criminal investigation completed in November, and transcripts of interviews conducted by WASPC investigators almost a year ago.

Former City Manager Ray Corpuz, a key figure in the Brame scandal, is conspicuously absent from the transcripts; he wasn't interviewed, nor were several other key figures in the case.

"We did not reinterview some of the people; other people did not care to be reinterviewed," said WASPC executive director Larry Erickson, adding that its investigators could not force anyone to speak.

The report's 25-page summary, one of the only new records produced in the WASPC review, was compiled by four investigators assigned to the case. Erickson reviewed their conclusions and forwarded them to Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge, whom the city appointed to administer the investigation. Hauge, in turn, relayed them to the city.

On matters that have lingered for more than a year since Tacoma's police chief fatally shot his wife and himself, WASPC's review sheds little light:

•Why was Brame hired as a patrol officer in 1981, despite failing one psychological evaluation and barely passing another? Investigators aren't sure.

•Why was a 1988 rape allegation against Brame never investigated as a crime? Investigators blame then-Police Chief Ray Fjetland and officer Reggie Roberts, who did not report the allegation to other law enforcement authorities.

"Not good police practice," Erickson said.

The report does not address several other controversial questions surrounding the Brame case. For instance, it does not resolve a disputed meeting of April 25, 2003, between members of the city's human resources department and the City Attorney's Office.

In that meeting, two human resource leaders contend, they suggested placing Brame on administrative leave, which would have required him to surrender his badge and gun. City attorneys maintain the gun and badge were never mentioned.

Another disputed conversation revolves around Fjetland and Corpuz and what they said to each other about the 1988 rape allegation.

Corpuz has said the allegation was described to him as "rough sex," not a rape, and that he spoke directly to Fjetland about it. Fjetland, to the State Patrol and The News Tribune, has said he never spoke to Corpuz directly about the incident.

The WASPC report offers no clarity on this, but Hauge said Friday that investigators had no evidence to suggest the conversation took place.

"The record suggests it did not happen," Hauge said.

Corpuz and Fjetland declined Friday to talk to The News Tribune about the matter.

Was there anything wrong with the 2001 selection process that led to Brame's appointment as police chief? No, WASPC investigators say. Their summary describes the process as "exemplary," and cites the use of multiple committees of citizens and department heads who examined the candidates for chief.

Those committees never heard about the rape allegation, which was known to members of the police department and other city officials. The committees did not see the records of Brame's psychological evaluations. They never saw the gaps in Brame's employment references.

Hauge, noting that he did not write the summary, distanced himself from the "exemplary" characterization, saying it applied only to the form of the selection process and not its outcome.

The Rev. David Alger, executive director of Associated Ministries and a screening panel member during the chief selection process, said he thought the word "exemplary" "was a bit of an overstatement."

Alger said he did not know whether information about the failed psychological evaluation or the rape allegation could have been shared with the panel, but said it would have had an effect had it been.

"There would have been substantial reaction to that," he said. "Surely, if we had known about those issues, there would have been serious reservations."

Mayor Bill Baarsma agreed that members of the selection committees should have had more information.

"I'm surprised they didn't hear about much of this information," he said. "I think that in the future, when we do a search, it should all hang out."

The WASPC report describes a stuttering investigation, begun only days after the Brame shootings of April 26, 2003, then stalled by the criminal investigation by the State Patrol, the state Attorney General's Office and the FBI.

On May 3 of last year, city leaders commissioned a "thorough-going, no-holds-barred investigation" that would cover the questions surrounding Brame's hiring and examine other issues related to his conduct as chief and what others knew about it.

In those first few weeks, WASPC investigators conducted 13 interviews with current and former city and police department employees. But the inquiry was suspended when the other investigative agencies took over. WASPC did not resume its investigation until Dec. 3. By then, the mission had changed.

Rather than a "thorough-going" investigation, the City Council voted to limit the inquiry to Brame's hiring, promotions and appointment as chief. Matters of misconduct by other employees who might have known about Brame's behavior were referred to the State Patrol and a separate investigation. The WASPC role was reduced to a review of administrative policy.

"We did not go beyond that," Erickson said Friday. "That was not our charge."

The investigation progressed slowly. Rather than conducting new interviews, investigators borrowed heavily from the State Patrol's work.

Of the 22 interview transcripts included in the WASPC review, 21 have been previously disclosed to the public. Seven are copies of State Patrol transcripts, and 14 come from initial WASPC interviews of city employees, conducted a year ago. One new interview appears, with retired assistant police chief Ken Monner. Other interview summaries in the WASPC review come from the State Patrol.

The WASPC review devotes one page to former assistant city attorney Shelley Kerslake, who describes a key meeting with Corpuz and Brame before Brame's appointment as chief.

It provides no date for the meeting or any other details beyond noting: "Kerslake was present at a meeting with Brame and Corpuz where Brame detailed the allegations of the rape and investigation to Corpuz while Kerslake was present."

In a brief explanation of the absence of a WASPC interview with Corpuz, the report describes a telephone call with the former city manager's attorney on Jan. 28, 2004.

"While Mr. Corpuz's attorney indicated that Mr. Corpuz might be agreeable to an interview with the investigative team, and stated that he would speak to Mr. Corpuz about such an interview, neither he nor Mr. Corpuz contacted anyone on the investigative team to arrange for such an interview," it states.

Two days later, the WASPC investigation was over.

"There are lot of questions that could have been asked of the former city manager," Hauge said. "It could have added some vital information."

Staff writers Jason Hagey and Kris Sherman contributed to this report.

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