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Marshfield Police and Fire Commission to serve police chief with charges of removal, hearing to be scheduled

Marshfield police chief Rick Gramza
Marshfield police chief Rick Gramza((Credit: MPD))
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 9:14 AM CST
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - Marshfield Police and Fire Commission will work with the city’s attorney to serve the Marshfield Police Department’s chief with charges for removal. That will trigger a series of events beginning with a hearing to go over the evidence in the matter. A date for that has not yet been set.

The members of the Marshfield Police and Fire Commission gathered virtually Wednesday morning for a regularly scheduled meeting, which included discussing the removal of Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza. The commission met in closed session about the topic for an hour. In a special session on Dec. 29, the city council and mayor unanimously voted to authorized the city administrator, Steve Barg to send a charging complaint to the commission with the recommendation to fire Gramza.

In a press release from Dec. 29, Barg said Gramza cannot effectively lead the department and stated, “The Charges stem from a significant investigation involving improper work activity and sexual relationships that Administrator Barg believes have undermined Chief Gramza’s ability to be the effective leader of the City of Marshfield Police Department.”

In November, union members of the police department issued a vote of no confidence in the chief’s leadership.

Barg declined an interview with 7 Investigates, but shared in the press release, “I am greatly saddened that it came to this where I needed to file charges seeking Chief Gramza’s removal. Our law enforcement officers must work tirelessly to protect the honor of their profession. The conduct identified in these charges demonstrates that Chief Gramza is unfit to lead them as their Chief of Police or serve with his fellow officers.”

As per state law, the commission will serve Gramza the charges and set a hearing date. At that hearing, the commission will hear testimony and evidence, then deliberate to make a decision whether to keep Gramza in his position as chief or to remove him.

Gramza is also scheduled to make an appearance in Portage County Circuit Court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing and arraignment related to five criminal counts stemming from allegations of unwanted sexual contact towards a police department employee. Gramza made his initial appearance in Wood County Circuit Court in November, but a new judge was assigned later that month in Portage County.

He was charged with three counts of misconduct in office, disorderly conduct, and fourth-degree sexual assault. Court documents state the complainant alleged unwanted sexual contact including inappropriate touching and verbal comments that spanned several years. The alleged victim stated she had contacted human resources before Gramza was chief but the allegations never proceeded. She said she feared she’d lose her job.

The case was investigated by the Eau Claire Police Department. Gramza acknowledged the contact but said it was consensual. He denied some of the victim’s more sexually aggressive complaints.

Online court records show the offense dates occurred in 2014, 2019, and this June.

In July, the state’s Division of Criminal Investigations investigated complaints made against Gramza. The complaints stem from Facebook posts accusing Gramza of having sexual relations with underage girls, specifically during his time as a school resource officer in the Marshfield High School. Gramza served as SRO at the high school between 2006 and 2007. DCI found no criminal wrongdoing, but there were consistencies between witnesses’ accounts including texting exchanges, “creepy” feelings, and fear of retaliation.

Barg confirmed Tuesday Gramza remains on paid voluntary leave. Barg explained in November the issuance of criminal charges does not permit the city to move him to unpaid status.

Gramza is free on a $10,000 signature bond. He’s set to enter a plea to the charges on Jan. 13.

This story will be updated as information develops on Jan. 13, 2021.

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