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7 Investigates obtains summer DCI investigation report against Marshfield Police Chief, no criminal conduct found

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 9:09 PM CST
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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW) - The Division of Criminal Investigation report into Marshfield’s police chief, Rick Gramza, from this summer found no criminal wrongdoing, but there were consistencies between witnesses’ accounts including texting exchanges, “creepy” feelings, and fear of retaliation.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice recently fulfilled 7 Investigates’ records request for the report after DCI agents completed it. The investigation began in July after two Marshfield officers, a subordinate and supervising officer, filed a joint complaint with the police and fire commission. Gramza went on voluntary leave during the investigation.

The complaint was sparked by the subordinate officer showing the supervising officer two photos of comments on 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.

The posts were from 2016, but the DCI report notes the officer did not indicate why the posts were being brought forward now. 7 Investigates reached out to the reporting officers and the city administrator Steve Barg, but all declined to comment. However, throughout the report witnesses, alleged victims, and the reporting officers noted a fear of retaliation.

The supervising officer told agents the allegations were from alleged incidents that happened years ago and that the statute of limitations might even be up, but the agent explained that he wanted to make sure there was no ongoing criminal activity that needed to be addressed. The supervising officer did not believe any children were in danger at the time of the complaint.

Gramza told agents he remembered the posts.

“So, I contacted that individual, private messaged him and I said ‘What you’re saying is untrue and defaming and if you don’t remove that, I’m going to ask for you to be investigated,’ and he took it down,” he told them.

The posts were made by one person, sparked by texted Gramza is accused of sending to some female students. One former student told agents Gramza sent her “creepy text messages” during her time as a student. She mentioned he asked her to “come to my office” with a kissing face emoji.

She said her friend received the same text message. Two adult witnesses also confirmed seeing the text messages.

She could not remember why he would have sent that to her, except that he may have been wanting to get information about another student. “...she believed Gramza would flirt with her to get her to give up information about other students at the school,” the report noted. Another student told investigators the a lot of girl in the high school found Gramza attractive, which Gramza acknowledged in his interview with agents as well.

The former student also said she never received any other text messages from Gramza that would be considered sexual in nature and that she never had any sexual contact with him.

In his interview with agents, Gramza did not remember ever texting these students and mentioned he was not even entirely sure students would have had cell phones at that time.

Agents interviewed another former student who told them nothing ever happened while she was a student, but soon after graduating when she was an adult there were two separate incidents including one while he was acting in his role as a detective. In that incident in 2010, she said he was trying to get her to work with him undercover, which she did not feel comfortable with, but “felt she had no other options.” She said “Gramza texted her and asked weird questions about what she was wearing and how her hair was done.”

Later that year after posting a picture of herself on Facebook, she said Gramza texted her saying she looked really good. She told agents he asked her to send more photos, so she sent a picture of her face, though she expressed she felt uncomfortable. She said she reminded Gramza he was married and she said he replied, “that he and his wife were having marital issues.” She said he then asked her what color her underwear was.

The former student said she told her friend, who is now one of the officers who filed the complaint against Gramza, about the exchange, but she said she decided not to file the complaint at the time. She added she hoped providing this information to agents “wouldn’t put a target on her family.”

Gramza denied having inappropriate relationships with students as children or as adults, including the previously referenced students.

Several witnesses declined to comment or did not respond to investigators’ calls. That includes an officer who resigned from the department and told one of the reporting officers that Gramza tried to “f*** her over” when she would not sleep with him. The high school guidance counselor was also interviewed but told investigators she did not remember any conversations about Gramza having inappropriate relationships with students.

7 Investigates offered Gramza the opportunity to share his side, but declined, thinking he cannot with the criminal charges he is facing. However, in his interview with agents in the first investigation, he expressed frustration, “if there’s a position that I’ve held highest, in the highest regard or cherished more than being chief right now is protecting kids.”

Gramza noted the position of school resource officer required setting healthy boundaries with students, acting as a paternal-like mentor to students, and taking a “tough love” approach by showing compassion and kindness.

Agents asked him if there were any situations where a student would have perceived his actions in an inappropriate way. Gramza listed off situations like a girl showing him her new belly button ring and he told her not to do that, and others where students would tell him after they had graduated that they “had the hots” for Gramza.

Agents asked if there were any people that would have a motive to want to sabotage his reputation with these allegations. He said there are some teachers he arrested in the past as well as officers that he has fired that have supportive followings.

Again, no criminal wrongdoing was found during the investigation and DCI closed the case. Shortly after it closed, the same two officers who reported the initial complaint filed an additional complaint. DCI reviewed it and declined to investigate it.

That complaint reiterated much of the previous complaint’s allegations, noting that the reporting officers had witnessed these text messages themselves or had alleged victims or witnesses report the information to them directly. The officers noted they believe Gramza violated city and department policies. They also brought up new allegations.

That includes “an affair on duty, on city time, and in city vehicles.” The supervising officer said Gramza acknowledge the affair and had this supervising officer communicate with that woman “on his behalf, and then communicate with him in a covert manner so that his wife would not be aware of who he was trying to talk to.”

“It should be noted that multiple women throughout the community of Marshfield have voiced feelings of uneasiness around Chief Gramza,” the second complaint from the two officers stated. “Multiple women have said they were warned by other women to not be alone with Gramza, due to ‘creepy’ behaviors. Women from the Personal Department Center, United Way, and the Wood County Department of Human Services have all stated that they try to not be alone with Gramza. Although these statements didn’t arise to formal complaints, we believe it is noteworthy that this is the reputation of the chief of police among female professionals in our community.”

The officers in the second complaint also make accusations against the city’s human resources director saying that she has a close relationship with Gramza and that other complaints have been made about unethical behavior of Gramza to the director which had not been followed up. They stated she is not objective or impartial when investigating matters related to Gramza.

The director told 7 Investigates the allegations are offensive and untrue. Administrator Barg also supported the director, but would not comment further on this or any of the other complaints against Gramza. The police and fire commission did not respond to a request for comment.

In a separate case unrelated to his leave in the summer, Gramza is facing five charges including three counts of misconduct in office, disorderly conduct, and fourth-degree sexual assault. He will make his first appearance in court Dec. 21. In the criminal complaint, the woman accusing Gramza of sexual assault is a city employee and said she made a complaint against Gramza with human resources, but noted that it did not go well and they did not move forward with an investigation at that time.

7 Investigates had requested all complaints filed against Gramza and the woman’s complaint was not included in that response nor were any other sexual harassment or assault allegations if any others had been filed.

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