Marshfield Police Chief Charged With Sexual Assault Will Get $72K From City For Resignation

Marshfield Mayor Faces Removal Hearings Stemming From Conflict With Police Commission

Marshfield Police Department
Marshfield Police Department. Photo courtesy of the Marshfield Police Department

The city of Marshfield last week struck a deal to pay its police chief $72,000 in a separation agreement as he faces sexual assault charges. At a meeting Tuesday night, members of the public sounded off on a conflict between the city’s mayor and its Fire and Police Commission that has the mayor facing removal hearings.

Chief Rick Gramza submitted his resignation to the city Thursday, just days before Police Commission hearings on his behavior were set to begin. Gramza is charged with sexually assaulting a female officer he supervised, first as a lieutenant and later as chief. A judge last month dismissed related charges of misconduct in office.

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The police chief’s resignation is part of broader turbulence in the central Wisconsin city of about 18,000 people, which includes a complaint against Mayor Bob McManus that stems from a conflict with the Fire and Police Commission. At the Common Council meeting Tuesday, members of the public blasted the commission, which some in the community perceive as having protected Gramza while moving against McManus.

McManus is facing removal hearings after complaints from members of the commission led to investigations of his handling of public records. In February, he said the conflict arose when he sought to appoint a member to the commission in 2020. The Wood County district attorney declined to file charges in the case. But a citizen complaint that followed has led to his attempted ouster.

On Tuesday, the Common Council discussed hearings on that complaint planned for later this month.

Public commenters at Tuesday’s meeting called the Police Commission “accountable to no one” and called for all its members to be replaced.

Gramza had been on paid leave from his position since August, when he disclosed he was under investigation. According to the agreement, he’ll continue to be paid through Aug. 31 and will be paid for unused vacation time. The terms of the agreement provoked a heated argument on the council and two members voted against it Thursday.

The city’s Police Commission followed the council’s recommendation Monday and withdrew charges against Gramza.

A state Department of Justice investigation found that rumors about sexual misconduct by Gramza had circulated for more than a decade. Two female officers told investigators that women in Marshfield warned each other not to be alone with Gramza due to “‘creepy’ behaviors.”

At earlier Police Commission meetings, attorneys for the city and for Gramza had said they planned to call numerous witnesses. An attorney for the city declined to comment on whether Gramza’s resignation means additional victims will not be heard.

In a statement, Steve Barg, Marshfield city administrator, said, “Our police department, city staff and our community deserve to move on and move forward.”