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Tacoma: Council to question Anderson today about revelations in Linnik case

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on April 26, 2011 at 6:01 am with 12 Comments »
April 26, 2011 8:31 am

The Tacoma City Council will meet behind closed doors today with City Manager Eric Anderson to discuss recent revelations that Police Chief Don Ramsdell and police department spokesman Mark Fulghum misled the public four years ago about the Zina Linnik investigation.

“Eric Anderson and the Chief have a lot of explaining to do,” Councilman Ryan Mello said Monday. “First and foremost, I want to know why the public was misled and why we, the council, hadn’t heard about it until The News Tribune brought it out.”

Today’s executive session will be the first meeting about the case between the full council and Anderson since last week’s news stories by reporter Adam Lynn revealed Ramsdell and Fulghum withheld information and lied to the media about why the department delayed issuing an Amber Alert for nearly 12 hours after Linnik disappeared in 2007.

As Lynn reported on Wednesday, court documents recently filed in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the city by the murdered girl’s family stated that Fulghum had fallen asleep early on July 5, 2007, after being requested at about 4 a.m. to issue an Amber Alert in the case. The alert ultimately wasn’t issued until about six hours later, at 10 a.m. on July 5 (Linnik disappeared about 9:40 p.m. on July 4).

But instead of publicly revealing that Fulghum had fallen asleep and failed to immediately follow through with the requested Amber Alert, Ramsdell and Fulghum later told reporters in 2007 the department delayed issuing the alert so detectives could gather more information to use in it.

After details about the delay emerged in court records and the media last week, Ramsdell and Anderson met with Lynn to discuss the case. Ramsdell apologized for not telling the newspaper the true reason for the delay. Anderson defended Ramsdell and denied that the chief’s actions amounted to lying.

“He didn’t include all the information. It was a stressful time. Things can slip, and they will,” the city manager said. “Is this man a liar? No. Not by omission or commission.”

Both men also defended Fulghum, saying the police department opted against punishing him for what was considered a “system failure.” (Fulghum, who had just finished a busy Fourth of July double-shift, was the only officer in the department authorized to issue an Amber Alert at the time – a policy that has since been changed, they said.)

(Child abduction experts say such Amber Alerts should go out within four hours of a child being kidnapped by a stranger. TPD was criticized for not issuing the alert earlier than it did. Terapon Adhahn, who pleaded guilty to raping and killing the 12-year-old girl, later told investigators he killed Linnik within 15 minutes of abducting her, according to court records.)

In an interview on Friday, Councilman Jake Fey expressed frustration that the revelations as reported in the newspaper had not been previously divulged to the council.

“The briefings that we have had in executive sessions on this topic have been few and far between,” he said, noting it has been months since council members have been updated on the family’s lawsuit.

“I learned about these issues in the paper,” Fey added. “Yes, I’m frustrated because ultimately, we’re going to be asked to make decisions about this. I think most elected officials would want to be prepared and informed about this kind of inflammatory information — about an incident that had so much emotional impact to this community — before it pops up in the news.”

The council also has a direct concern with how personnel and disciplinary decisions are made in such cases, Fey added.

“How disciplinary matters are handled by the city manager is a legitimate concern of ours,” Fey said. “How they’re handled sets a tone for the whole operation of the city. He sets the tone as a culture for the whole operation of city government, and that’s something we have a to be aware of to inform our decision-making.”

(As I reported in this story for the Seattle P-I in 2008, police officers who are caught in some kinds of official lies can face termination and losing their state police certifications. But many officers also avoid such discipline.)

Because of the family’s active lawsuit, Mello said he understood today’s meeting about issues involved in the Linnik case fall under the “pending litigation” exception for convening an executive session.

But Mello added he would also press for the council to make some kind of public statement, too.

“In my opinion, this is a significant breech of public trust,” Mello said. “We need to do something in public to demonstrate that lying is never tolerated — lying to the public, to the media, to the city council is never, ever OK.”

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. pumaintacoma says:

    Councilmembers: Keep in mind there is a reason we have separation of powers and that the City Manager is the CEO of the city who should be the “checks and balance” in ensuring the operations and management of our departments are run as planned and per policy.

    Anderson violated the trust of his office, he did not provide objective assessment of Fulghman and Ramsdell but “nevertheless” protecting them HIS SUBORDINATES for Pete’s Sake.

    It is not rocket science. If the CEO lies to the Board of Directors at the corporate level they are FIRED.

  2. PumainTacoma says:

    Public servants who are responsible and paid to protect the public and ensure to perform the full functions of the job….Will be judged. It is part of the job!

    As Administrator and CEO, Anderson’s “essential functions” of his job (why the job exists) is to ensure that the City of Tacoma and his departments (ie. Tacoma Police Department’s) policies are enforced.

    What is so hard to digest about his JOB RESPONSIBILITIES. Then Ramsdell and Anderson cover-up and hide the TRUTH from the taxpaying public.

    **Question for Anderson:**
    After YOU “knew” Fughlman (via Chief Ramsdell) fell asleep on the job WHAT ACTION DID YOU TAKE TO CORRECT his/Ramsdell’s behavior? We are waiting for the answer. If your answer is NOTHING. You have just lost. Plain and simple YOU have not PERFORMED your essential functions of your job, as Administrator and CEO.

    Inaction by Fulghman, Ramsdell and Anderson is in and of itself negligence in the HR arena. The City of Tacoma was negligence in the hiring of David Brame (HR term Negligence Hiring by not disclosing and researching his past behaviors; psychological tests, etc..) and here again the City of Tacoma is negligence in Supervising Employees and Management in their jobs.

    So if the answer to my question is: YOU TOOK NO CORRECTIVE ACTION AFTER YOU KNEW FULGHMAN FELL ASLEEP AND THAT RAMSDELL LIED OR WAS NOT TRUTHFUL and then lying and misleading your Board of Directors (ie. City Council) as the CEO you should be fired.

  3. @PumainTacoma they flew to hawaii and had a amber alert training class. The city also does not rely on one guy full of sleeping pills to flip the amber alert switch anymore. Still the lying is messed up and Eric Anderson/Police Chief has got to go.

  4. Liar, Liar Pagoda`s on fire

  5. Anderson should be terminated. The Chief of Police should be terminated. They hid the truth because they knew it would cause questions to be asked. Anderson then took a pay raise even knowing he failed to do his job. He is doing a Bill Clinton with this words about Ramsdell not lying.

    These are the norm for political appointees and government management.

    Rep Jacks in Vancouver did the right thing by resigning and acknowledging his alcohol problem. Anyone associated with the Linnik lies should resign and do the right thing.

    We are waiting for the resignations of the deceitful employees of Tacoma. How long will we have to wait?

  6. Pecksbadboy says:

    Bye Bye Mr. Anderson, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
    Don’t expect to get severance pay either, you lied to the public.

  7. We can say thank you Police Chief for not lying under oath. This makes me think they are confident that lying to the general public has no consequences. Disturbing.

  8. This is traumatizing for a lot of people, hitting on a lot of levels all at once, from too many directions.

    I hope the council takes a stand for this city.

  9. There are mitigating circumstances why Fulgham failed to issue the alert (double-shift on one of the busiest days of the year). I think the public (and even the family) can factor that in, to a certain degree.

    However, though there is a level of understanding that he was greatly fatigued and unable to properly fulfill his duties, though the departmental policies didn’t support having a back-up in case of such situations–still, that does not cancel out the fact that the department lied about the reason behind the delay.

    Mr. Anderson is himself showing a lack of integrity by seeking to obscure the issue. When you say one thing (that the department delayed issuing the alert so detectives could gather more information) but the truth is not that–the truth is that a hard-working city employee was exhausted and screwed up by not performing his duties–when you make a statement that is untrue, that is a lie. Telling someone something that you know isn’t true is the definition of a lie. That’s not an omission, white lie, slip up. That’s a lie. It’s a statement that intended to cover up a regrettable action that endangered the life of a child.

    Best way to handle a mistake? “We messed up. We’re so deeply sorry. We’re working on policy changes to make sure this will never happen again. We will work with the family to educate the public about this issue, to make our alert process even more effective and to make the world a safer place for kids. We’ve provided appropriate consequences to the employee who erred. We hope you’ll forgive him, and us, and we’ll work harder to strive to earn your respect and trust.”

    Why does lying by public officials even matter? It seems pretty rudimentary, but for the city manager and anyone else who can’t see why lying is wrong, I suggest reading the recent New Yorker article about perjury. Good quote:

    “When people at the top lie—people like those in my book— it filters down throughout society. They’re role models. President Clinton admitted he lied under oath. President Bush commuted the sentence of Libby, a convicted perjurer. The president is the nation’s highest law enforcement officer, not to mention a huge role model. What message does this send? Is it any wonder this is approaching a crisis?…

    …I hope my book is a wake-up call. Our judicial system rests on an honor code: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Perjury is not acceptable behavior. It has vast, harmful consequences. The law must be enforced, and the guilty tried and punished. We all need to insist upon a basic standard of truth from our elected officials, community leaders, business associates, friends, and families. We must cultivate a commitment to truth among our young people and children. It has to start with us. I hope these stories help.”

    –James B. Stewart: How Perjury Affects Society, April 19, 2011, New Yorker online edition

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/04/james-b-stewart-how-perjury-affects-society.html

    If it needs to be made any more clear, read it this way: “The [police chief] is the [city's] highest law enforcement officer, not to mention a huge role model. What message does this send? Is it any wonder this is approaching a crisis?”

  10. seriously, big deal

  11. It is long time coming – Anderson MUST be fired. What else has he lied about? He can’t be trusted. City Council – we elected you to lead, and part of that leadership means keeping YOUR employees in check. I’m your boss as a citizen, and I’m telling you, the City Manager needs to go. Fire him, lest we decide to replace each one of you with a council that will do the right thing and hold the City Manager accountable.

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