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Tacoma: 6th council member can’t recall being told sleeping cop delayed Zina’s Amber Alert

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on May 1, 2011 at 6:01 am with 26 Comments »
May 1, 2011 12:33 am

Former City Councilwoman Julie Anderson said Saturday she has “absolutely no recollection” of being told two years ago that Tacoma police spokesman Mark Fulghum fell asleep after he’d been asked to issue an Amber Alert when Zina Linnik disappeared in 2007.

Julie Anderson

She added that if she had heard such information, she would have taken action.

“If I had been made aware that what actually happened — that an officer fell asleep and caused the delay of the Amber Alert, and that that had all been misrepresented in public — I would have acted, yes,” she told me in phone call Saturday morning.

Julie Anderson is the sixth member of the 2009 city council who could not corroborate statements made Friday by City Manager Eric Anderson that both he and City Council members knew about the reason for the Amber Alert’s delay since 2009 (Here’s our story from Saturday about what other council members recall).

Eric Anderson told The News Tribune Friday that he and the council first learned about Fulghum’s sleep-induced delay simultaneously, during a closed-door executive session in 2009 with city attorneys. The meeting was called to discuss a legal claim against the city by the Linnik family, he said.

Eric Anderson said that during the meeting, he and the attending council members were clearly told about Fulghum, yet the information did not spark him or anyone else to take further action, such as seeking any kind of internal investigation.

That’s because there were no obvious signs of policy violations, Eric Anderson said. He added that, because executive session discussions are legally confidential, he did not feel he could use any information that emerged from them to separately launch such a probe.

The city manager’s statements are significant because they would mean that several other city officials besides himself knew for nearly two years about the true reason why the alert was delayed in the Linnik case. Until news stories in the TNT last week, police officials had previously told the press and public they had delayed issuing the alert so investigators could gather more  information to put in it.

In her phone discussion with me Saturday, Julie Anderson keenly recalled details from the 2009 executive session now in question.
“There was a letter from the (Linnik) family’s attorney that had been sent to the city, basically putting us on notice that the city was about to be sued,” she said. “It was a fairly lengthy and disturbing letter, and it described all of the hardships the family had endured and some pretty graphic details about the case. The letter is what prompted the executive session.”

Council members in attendance each received a copy of the letter to read, Julie Anderson said. Among its details, the family’s lawyer noted that Tacoma police had waited longer than what ideal practice calls for when issuing such notices, she said.

But, she added, there was no mention in the letter, or ensuing discussion, of an officer falling asleep and causing that delay.

“I don’t recall anything in that executive session where it was disclosed that an officer falling asleep delayed the Amber Alert,” Julie Anderson said. “What I recall is that the city manager saying, as disturbing as the letter was, our liability was very limited in scope, if any actually existed at all.”

(In her discussion with me, Julie Anderson was also careful to note that what she was relaying did not violate legal restraints on executive sessions because she was not revealing specific details of the meeting’s discussions.)

Julie Anderson’s version of the meeting seems to fit with recollections from five other members of the 2009 council. Each did not recall  getting any information about an officer falling asleep. Like Julie Anderson, three of them (Bill Baarsma, Connie Ladenburg and Mike Lonergan) also separately said they recalled learning about a delay in the Amber Alert — but nothing about it being caused by a sleeping officer.

(Eric Anderson said Friday it doesn’t surprise him that council members can’t recall being told about Fulghum, saying the unrecorded meeting occurred two years ago and contained a number of horrific details. )

Both Fulghum and Police Chief Don Ramsdell had previously told the public in 2007 that the Amber Alert had been delayed to gather more information and iron out discrepancies in descriptive information about the suspect’s van in Linnik’s abduction.

Recently filed court documents in the Linnik family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the city detailed that Fulghum had fallen asleep after receiving an Amber Alert request at 4 a.m. on July 5, 2007. The alert wasn’t issued until six hours later.

Last week, after TNT reporter Adam Lynn revealed in a story the true reason for the Amber Alert delay, Ramsdell apologized for not previously telling the newspaper what happened. The city manager also defended Ramsdell and Fulghum, primarily blaming the delayed alert on a since-revised policy that made Fulghum the lone Tacoma cop authorized to issue Amber Alerts.

The matter sparked the department to change its policy so that any officer ranked sergeant or above can now issue such alerts, but no internal investigations or disciplinary action were taken.

Earlier this week, after some members of the  current council raised concerns to the city manager about the news stories, city officials held another executive session about the Linnik case.

The council emerged from that closed-door meeting Tuesday, with Mayor Marilyn Strickland announcing the public trust had been violated by the police department’s misleading information. But, other than the council telling the city manager that better public communications were needed, Strickland joined Eric Anderson to defend police and declare no further action was necessary.

Strickland also emphasized that the delayed alert did not contribute to Linnik’s murder, citing sd support the confession from the man convicted for killing the girl (Terapon Adhahn has said he killed Linnik shortly after abducting her).

This week, after the TNT asked for Fulghum’s pay records on the day he delayed the alert, the city manager took action in the case. Eric Anderson said he learned from responsive documents to the TNT’s request that Fulghum was being paid extra and on “standby duty” at the time he fell asleep.

The city manager said Ramsdell never told him that before, so he reprimanded the chief.  Eric Anderson also directed an internal investigation of Fulghum, and the mayor separately called for an outside review of the entire Linnik investigation.

Just as other members of the ’09 council also told me, Julie Anderson said Saturday she first learned the details about Fulghum falling asleep from reading the TNT’s stories last week.

“My first reaction was one of great surprise and disappointment,” she said.

Leave a comment Comments → 26
  1. harleyrider1 says:

    And the finger pointing, “had I known I would have…” begins.

    Rather than that dance, terminate a sleeping employee that was being paid in excess of $65 per hour.

  2. controller1 says:

    Just as I figured, the City Manager recalls informing Mayor Barsma and the City Council about the failure of the sleeping Police Officer not issuing the Amber Alert, (behind closed doors with no records of who was present and the discussion), but so far none present can recall him discusssing that fact.

    Who’s lying here, the City Manager or the City Council?

    After reading all that has transpired recently, I beleive the City Manager is nothing but a Liar, and he is trying to protect himself by once again, Covering up.

    The City Manager needs to resign immediately, especially with his constant Lying and Covering up propaganda!

  3. Moochach says:

    Everyone is in full career/salary/pension protection mode. No Council Member is going to admit having heard anything because it could damage future political aspirations, and the City Manager needs to protect his income and make sure that he gets his standard 10% raise next year so that his pension numbers are high when he retires.

    Eventually everyone will blame Fulghum and hope that the citizens forget about the 4 years of lying and coverup by the Chief, City Manager and Council – which is actually a lot more troubling than someone falling asleep.

    The citizens will end up paying several million dollars to the Linnik family, and meanwhile the Mayor feels that there should just be “Better Communication” in the future, whatever that means.

    All of these revelations help me understand though why the City wants so badly to cave in the fight against Clear Channel in regards to the electronic billboards despite overwhelming citizen opposition…when the legal resources of the City are consumed with defending the lying and incompetence of the City staff and management, there are no resources left to fight for the quality of life of the citizens.

  4. TheSlag says:

    Let’s place a little reprimand in the managers file: “I reprimand you, Mr. Manager. I know you did not do it intentionally.” In two years we will remove that letter. Nothing else needed. See, all taken care of. And most certainly this reprimand will not influence any future evaluation (what evaluation??) or another massive pay increase next year. How does 35,000 sound, Mr. Manager? Would you like that to be applied retroactively for the last two?

  5. Is the letter which the family wrote to the council (which prompted the elusive executive closed-door meeting in 2009) considered a public document we can request? If the letter itself mentions anything about Fulghum sleeping, then they’re all liars… or they are all incredibly incompetent to have allowed the City Manager to only report to them the parts he wanted to, and not one person on the Council bothered to look into it further.

    The other bit of information I’d be curious to see (if the letter covered), is what really happened between the time of the abduction and the time it took to call for the alert at 4am (much less by 10am). No one is revealing what’s still being covered-up about that first delay before Fulghum was even called,.. which may have been the bigger muck-up they were focusing on covering-up back then. I don’t know why The News Tribune isn’t pursuing that issue unless it’s to deliberately draw out this story so as to withhold titillating bits for later. Maybe John Hathaway will address it.

  6. I don’t think I can stand to hear it repeated one more time that “the Amber Alert wouldn’t have saved the girl anyway”. Besides not knowing that for sure, what we DO know is that the abductor was still on-the-loose at that time… so OF COURSE an alert should have been issued as soon as possible to capture this guy and prevent another child from being in danger.

    And for all you city officials who keep saying the alert wouldn’t have helped her, then why does Zina’s headstone (which I believe the city paid for) say she died on July 6th… two days after her abduction? Please look into that, Malone.

  7. This has become a prime example of why “closed door” and no record keeping meetings within Govt should no longer be permitted.
    Unless this change is instituted and (especially local govt.) become truly open to review and records kept, the public can never trust anything that comes out of these meeting nor the participants.
    Step up to the plate in this arena Tacoma, other cities and Pierce County.. no more closed door hidden meetings and start keeping records of all meetings.
    Another betrayal of public trust and a horrific smear on any remaining belief of integrity here.

  8. dster420 says:

    Farewell, ramsdell, good-bye anderson, austalaviesta fulgum, peace out strickland, and auf weidershien city council.. Please excuse all spelling errors..

  9. TWill, please take a picture of the headstone of Zina LInnik. I want to see with my own eyes the date she died as July 6th.

  10. aranciata says:

    Julie Anderson has absolutely no credibility with me, but in this case I think she is more likely than not telling the truth. It is Anderson who needs to go, and now! Ramsdell, I’m afraid if he goes the feckless City Council will appoint Sheehan Chief, Sheehan who was one of David Brame’s staunchest supporters and is far worse than Ramsdell, even if guilty of all he is accused of.

    I’m just thinking pragmatically.

  11. Eric Anderson is inferring that there is tarp-wide cover up that includes Chief Ramsdell, the City Council and the Mayor? We’ll be able to tell if this is true by the Mayor and the councils future actions.

    Mayor Strickland, the Tacoma City Council have one clear choice to clear all their collective names and restore public trust. Terminate employment of Eric Anderson with cause and terminate Chief Ramsdell employment with cause, including all top management at TPD.

    These actions will send a clear message to the public that when the police Chief, police officers and city manager lie to the public, the media, mayor and council that they will all be fired as a matter of public policy. This alone will completely restore the trust of the public in it’s leaders of Tacoma.

  12. aranciata says:

    I think I am with you yid. Anderson must go, period. Ramsdell has to go too, but clean out all of the top management at TPD if Ramsdell goes to ensure that the likes of Sheehan do not become Chief.

  13. To: YID
    I’m having a photo of the headstone sent to John Hathaway (New Takhoman) and R.R.Anderson (Tacomic) right now. Sounds like Hathaway is in the process of requesting a copy of the letter.

  14. aranciata says:

    I am not with you that “This alone will completely restore the trust of the public in it’s leaders of Tacoma.” So long as our street maintenance budgets are raided to fund some nebulous concepts like Urban Planning/Renewell & Economic Development that has left most of Tacoma worse of with each year that goes by there will be no public trust in government. What it will do is give some credence to the claim that the Council & Mayor are not in on the fix in this case.

  15. quiller4 says:

    Given that no council member can remember what would have been a shocking disclosure, it is more than likely that the disclosure was never made.

    However, the nap or the lack of disclosure is not likely to increase the city’s liability since both the killer’s confession and medical examiner’s findings support the conclusion that Zina was already dead before officers requested an alert.

  16. To: Quiller4

    Then, by your reasoning, the rest of us should be suing the city for not issuing the alert sooner since they knew a child-killer was still on the loose… possibly recklessly and unnecessarily putting other of our children in danger.

    Manager Anderson is saying he knew about the “nap” all along but just didn’t know that Fulghum was considered on-duty… so the “nap” was disclosed, though perhaps not to the council via the city manager at that particular emergency meeting… and/or the city manager is getting his lies confused regarding when he did learn it and who he kept it from.

    All of it adds up to inappropriate actions or incompetence, and it should result in all of them being replaced with different and more honest city leaders who will look out for residents instead of themselves.

  17. @Quiler4, I’d like to see the video or listen to the audio recording of the confession and the questions and answers that led up to the killers claim that, “he killed her right away”. The TPD knew about the delayed Amber Alert before he was interviewed. It may very well be that they coerced that portion of the confession. The Medical Examiners office indicated the primary cause of death was blunt force trauma which contradicts the killers claim that he accidentally asphyxiated her which was listed as the secondary cause of death. The killer also claimed he did not remember any blunt force trauma. How could he remember asphyxiating her unless prompted to remember by TPD?

  18. thurber says:

    Good for Julie Anderson. She has the most specific memory of that 2009 executive session. No council member remembers Eric Anderson telling them what acually caused the amber alert. Balance of evidence: Eric Anderson did NOT tell the council the truth in 2009.

  19. thurber says:

    Correction: “… Anderson telling them what actually caused the amber alert delay”.

  20. Haha. I woke up down today. You’ve chreeed me up!

  21. Thanks for sharing. Aalwys good to find a real expert.

  22. Hey, subtle must be your mlidde name. Great post!

  23. The forum is a brighter place thkans to your posts. Thanks!

  24. olympicmtn says:

    Is this the same JULIE ANDERSON whose first spouse David Alred City of Tacoma Police Officer tore down Susan Frutz door and kept her at gun point tied her up and then said “Never mind.” This was the case that cost the City of Tacoma millions from a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where the judge even said” :“Surely, the citizens of Tacoma would not want to be treated in their own homes the way the jury found officers Stril, Morris and Alred treated Frunz and her guests,” Kozinski wrote. “A prompt payment of the verdict, accompanied by a letter of apology from the city fathers and mothers, might have been a more appropriate response to the jury’s collective wisdom.”

    The jury award, which the city must pay, included punitive damages against all three officers.

    And yet why did JULIE ANDERSON protect her ex-husband and not that of a lawful citizen going into her own home?

    All the council members are culpable and all of a sudden have a MEMORY LOSS.

    Fire all of them.

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