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Tacoma councilwoman won’t say when she learned of cop’s delay of Amber Alert

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on May 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm with 20 Comments »
May 4, 2011 4:27 pm

As we’ve reported in recent days,  nearly every member of Tacoma’s 2009 City Council has told The News Tribune they do not recall ever being informed two years ago that an Amber Alert for Zina Linnik was delayed in 2007 because an officer awakened by a call requesting he send out the alert instead fell back to sleep.

Every council member, that is, except Lauren Walker, who had not responded to the newspaper’s requests for comment for several days.

I finally spoke with Walker yesterday afternoon and again today.  I will get to her response a bit later in this post.

First, a little context: The council members’ recollections are important because City Manager Eric Anderson has recently said that both he and the council first learned of the detail about Officer Mark Fulghum‘s sleep-induced delay during an executive session in the summer of 2009. The meeting was held to discuss a potential legal claim from Linnik’s family.

That closed-door meeting took place at least 20 months before anyone from the city publicly acknowledged the true reason for the Amber Alert’s delay.  For nearly the past four years until that recent acknowledgment, the only public reasons given by Police Chief Don Ramsdell and Fulghum have been that the alert wasn’t sent out for 12 hours because police had to gather more case details before sending it.

Only after the TNT reported details about Fulghum garnered from recently filed court records did city officials acknowledge the truth.  The revelation quickly led to an admission and apology from Ramsdell, and an about-face by Anderson, who — along with the support of the current city council — initially had said no further action needed to be taken.

A few days after the TNT requested Fulghum’s pay records for the day he delayed the alert — records that show Fulghum was on “standby” duty at the time — Anderson announced he had reprimanded Ramsdell, would investigate Fulghum and seek an outside probe of the entire Linnik investigation.

While telling the newspaper about the new course of actions last Friday, Anderson also said he first learned about Fulghum’s involvement in the delayed alert during the ’09 executive session with council members.

But later, when asked one-by-one, seven members of the 2009 council could not recall ever being made privy to those details about Fulghum during the meeting.  Those with no recollection included former members Julie Anderson, Bill Baarsma, Connie Ladenburg and Mike Lonergan, and current members Jake Fey, Spiro Manthou and Marilyn Strickland. An eighth member from the ’09 council, Rick Talbert, said he missed that particular executive session.

That left Walker as the only member who hadn’t responded.

Yesterday afternoon, when I asked Walker for her comment in person following the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting,  she read for me this brief prepared statement:

I honor the rules and importance of executive session and attorney client privilege.  This discussion took place two years ago.  As with all cases discussed in executive session, I remember some very specific details and general information of what was presented.

Beyond that, Walker declined comment.

After thinking about her response, I called Walker today and asked a different question that had nothing to do with executive sessions or their confidentiality rules. I wondered if she had read the recent News Tribune stories in which the details about Fulghum were revealed?

Why? she asked.

Because, I said, if you read them, I’d like to know if that was the first time you’d learned that Fulghum had fallen asleep and delayed the alert? (Several council members, including Fey, Talbert, Julie Anderson and Baarsma, have told me the first they became aware of those details was by reading the TNT stories).

Walker initially said nothing.

It’s a straightforward question, I said. I only need a yes or no answer.

She finally said she’d call me back with an answer after she finished a meeting she was just heading into.

A while later, Walker called back.

“Answering that question would violate the confidentiality of executive session,” she said. “I stand by my statement.”

I wondered if Walker had sought advice from the city attorney for her answer.

No, she said.

So, why do you think answering a question about a newspaper article would violate executive session confidentiality, I asked.

Again, Walker replied:

“Answering that question would violate the confidentiality of executive session. I stand by my statement.”

Leave a comment Comments → 20
  1. olympicmtn says:

    You’re being lied to more than one time.

    Tacoma Council does not believe in transparency post Brame. Instead they shut up, lie, fake memory losses and then turn their head KNOWING Fulhgman and Ramsdell are still collecting a check by taxpayers while conducting negligent work. It’s not like the Amber Alert was not in place in Seattle, or other cities. Hello? Tacoma violated their own policy. They can not claim ignorance. They are liable. They did not follow their own policy… End of story.. Taxpayers remember this when Anderson and McCarthy for Tacoma and Pierce County have to write a check to the family for failure to follow their own policies.

  2. Whatever1214 says:

    Keep after her Lewis. Good job.

  3. TheSlag says:

    The reason to have secret closed door meetings without minutes was to have unit cohesion. A council unanimously (and anonymously) standing behind the manager. Now it appears the secret meetings cause some council people to basically deny what the manager said happened (turning the manager into a liar) and cause some council people to evoke attorney-client privileged (turning the fellow council people who spoke into violators of such rules) and the manager trying to turn everybody around him into liars.
    What is truly amazing is that we have an extremely well paid manger who is clueless about staff evaluations and has after all these years not put into place any regulations in regards to lying officers, and officers failing to perform while on duty. The council itself is running every which way like chickens in a thunderstorm.
    In the meantime, the people do not receive transparency promised so many times, loudest from the manager. But the people will have to pay for the lawsuit, the manager’s pension, the defense attorneys defending the officers that lied and/or failed to perform their duties. A real sucky outcome for the residents, not matter how it is spun; and a sad tragedy for the Linniks, who are being dragged through this chaos.

  4. tree_guy says:

    Ah yes…the secret meetings in Tacoma where officials collude to re invent history. Hope you voters are enjoying your elected officials.

  5. TheSlag says:

    “The City of Tacoma adopted seven Guiding Principles, which are the foundation of all the work we do: Service, Integrity, Accountability, Respect, Stewardship, Innovation and Teamwork.”
    I guess transparency and honesty are not principals they follow.

  6. Lewis,

    It’s odd she would not answer your last question. Does that mean that all the other council members and the Mayor violated the confidentiality of the executive session by answering your question?

  7. fatuous says:

    “Now it appears the secret meetings cause some council people to basically deny what the manager said happened (turning the manager into a liar) and cause some council people to evoke attorney-client privileged (turning the fellow council people who spoke into violators of such rules) and the manager trying to turn everybody around him into liars.”

    Why are you making this stuff up? You don’t know what happened at the executive meeting.

  8. Moochach says:

    Great work Lewis. Keep digging, it’s pretty clear that there is a lot to be learned about the true principles and character of the Tacoma city government through this episode.

  9. fatuous says:

    “It’s odd she would not answer your last question. Does that mean that all the other council members and the Mayor violated the confidentiality of the executive session by answering your question?”

    That’s the impression I got. It does seem everyone except Lauren has violated the confidentiality of the executive session. Note I haven’t read the rules. I’ll leave that as an exercise for Tree_Guy. ;)

    Anyhow, I don’t think it was smart politically.

    I wonder if there is a process in which the rules can be suspended to allow commenting on a particular subject. Tree_Guy when do you think you can finish reading the rule book and get back to us? :)

  10. thurber says:

    Walker has filed for re-election this year. She does not have an opponent yet.

    Her political sponsors are Felix Flannigan, the Ebersoles, and Jake Fey.

    In Tacoma: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

  11. Pecksbadboy says:

    There goes any chance for re -election of Ms Walker.

  12. This long time policy of Tacoma,Political players, displays an appalling widespread pattern of a blatant “CYA” mentality!! How did this lame brained bunch get voted into office, in the first place?

  13. For those wondering, here’s the law:

    “(4) No municipal officer may disclose confidential information gained by reason of the officer’s position,”

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.23.070

  14. TheSlag says:

    Fatuous, i am not making this stuff up. Just read up on the case.

    “Why are you making this stuff up? You don’t know what happened at the executive meeting. “

  15. TheSlag says:

    who decides what is confidential information? rubbery at best

  16. ilikebutter says:

    So, this isn’t exactly true is it? Spirro Manthou, in a TNT story a few days ago, recalls the officer was asleep. He claimed he recalled the officer went home to sleep after a double-shift. Now Walker won’t give a comment. I respect the TNT building a case but let’s not lie to make that case appear stronger. If you do, that is the same thing you are accusing the city of.

  17. intheblack says:

    You all scream about a lack of integrity in elected officals, but did any of you read the heart-wrenching letter to the editor this morning? The one regarding the motorcyclist who lay dying in the street while the fine citizens of Tacoma directed obscenities and obscene jestures at the people who stopped to help because they were an inconvenience.

    What is the integity level of people living in Tacoma? My short history here tells me that the bar is not all that high based on that sad event, people vandalizing city parks with cars, car break-ins and meth labs to name a few things.

    I challege each one of you to run for public office and raise that bar you think is so low. Put up or shut up.

  18. To: IntheBlack
    The incidents you refer to are, indeed, sad but hardly representations of the entire populous of Tacoma. The criticism of the city officials, however, are more fairly focused: the City Manager, entire City Council, Chief of Police, Police Spokesperson and probably the City Attorney and a few TPD detectives were/are all undeniably involved in this case and are all giving very self-serving inconsistent smarmy answers instead of doing their best to do right by the Linnick family and the residents of Tacoma. I am very surprised by Lauren Walkers answer. I had hoped she would be the one representative who would be straight with us… guess she’s saving it for the witness stand.

  19. Mango Juice says:

    It didn’t surprise me when I read that the City Manager, City Council, Chief of Police and a bunch of others closed ranks and protected each other. At least the Chief of Police covered up for his own boys. Can’t see SPD Chief Diaz doing that for his boys in blue!

    I’ve had dealings with TPD. Some of these guys don’t seem to be aware that taxpayers like me are paying their salaries. Sigh.

    And now I’ll just follow in Sgt. Fulghum’s footsteps and get some sleep.

  20. thurber says:

    The council can just agree to release the results of the meeting in question or any other. The council can agree to keep attendence or notes. The council can order the disclosure of all city records regarding the issue. The council can require Anderson, Pauli, Ramsdell to testify under oath as to what they told the council and when.

    There is no law or rule forbiding this.

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