Marshfield Seeks Firing of Police Chief

Riley Hebert

Marshfield Seeks Firing of Police Chief

2 mins
January 4, 2021

The city council wants an oversight panel to fire Police Chief Rick Gramza, saying he can no longer effectively lead his department after prosecutors charged him with sexual assault and misconduct in office.

In a closed session Tuesday evening, the council authorized City Administrator Steve Barg to file a complaint Wednesday with the Police and Fire Commission regarding Gramza's conduct and to seek his removal from office, Mayor Bob McManus said in a statement after the closed session.

Barg thinks "a significant investigation involving improper work activity and sexual relationships" has undermined Gramza's ability to effectively lead the department, McManus said in the statement.

According to a criminal complaint prosecutors filed Nov. 6 against Gramza, a department employee reported Gramza sexually assaulted her in his office. She told an Eau Claire police investigator the assaults happened repeatedly during the past five years, but she was afraid to report them.

Another department employee told investigators he saw Gramza behave in a "flirtatious manner" with women, according to the complaint. He said Gramza acted in a way that would not be appropriate for a professional.

In November, the Marshfield Professional Police Association unanimously approved a "vote of no confidence" against Gramza, saying it does not support him or his policies. The union also called for the city to take action against the chief.

Barg shares the union's conclusion that Gramza cannot effectively lead the police department, according to McManus' statement.

"I am greatly saddened that it came to this where I needed to file charges seeking Chief Gramza's removal," Barg said in a statement McManus read aloud Tuesday. "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."

After Barg files the complaint with the commission, state statutes require the panel to hold a hearing in 10 to 30 days. Commission members will hear evidence and decide whether to remove Gramza from office.

Marshfield aldermen are asking the city's Fire-and-Police Commission to terminate Police Chief Rick Gramza.

According to WDLB, following a two-hour closed session, the Common Council voted 10-0 Tuesday night in favor of authorizing City Administrator Steve Barg to file formal employment-related charges against the Chief.

In a prepared statement after the meeting, Mayor Bob McManus said Barg would be filing those charges with the Commission today.  Under state statutes, McManus said the Commission will have to schedule a hearing date from 10-to-30 days after receiving the city's formal request.

The Mayor described last night's two-hour closed session as "tense".  The Mayor added that Tuesday's 10-0 vote by the Common Council showed that aldermen were in agreement with the Marshfield Professional Police Association, which cast a unanimous vote of "no confidence" in Chief Gramza November 10th.

Under state rules, McManus said the hearing in front of the Fire-and-Police Commission would need to take place between January 9th and 29th.  Gramza, who turns 48 next Friday, was charged in early November with five counts, three felony charges of misconduct in office for acting with excessive authority, one misdemeanor count of fourth-degree sexual assault and one misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

Gramza's alleged victim brought allegations against the Chief dating back to 2015. He acknowledges a sexual relationship, but insists the contact was consensual. Gramza is free on a $10,000 signature bond and is due back in Wood County Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing on January 13th.

This article was orginally reported by
Riley Hebert

Riley Hebert is news director for Central Wisconsin Broadcasting.