OnFocus – During Citizen Comments at Tuesday’s Common Council Meeting, several community members addressed the Council to request information about the progress of an investigation into Police Chief Richard Gramza.
In subsequent respective agenda items, Police & Fire Commissioner Mike Meyers, Alderwoman Rebecca Spiros, and Alderman Tom Buttke with help from City Attorney Harold “Hap” Wolfgram, explained the reasoning behind the seeming lack of public information into the case, highlighting that in situations like this that it is important to follow the letter of the law.
“It’s not something that the commission is doing – dragging it out. It’s covered by the law,” said Meyers.
“I want to address the continuous remarks into the public about the delay in the Gramza issue. I want to assure you all that we have pushed as hard as we can to push this issue as fast as we can, but as Hap explained there are laws that are in place that require Chief Gramza to get paid until this process has been seen all the way through,” said Spiros.
Meyers also explained the separation between the roles of Police & Fire Commission and the Common Council, and why such distinctions exist.
“The Commission is allowed to hire and fire and set policy, and we do that all outside the political arena,” explained Meyers, alluding to situations in other communities where the governing body has abused their power over police departments to protect their own interests, and therefore a separation between the powers is important.
“Everything that has been going on in the last 6 or 8 months is an example of why a city our size needs a Police & Fire Commission. We need to keep items like this outside the political arena,” he said.
Meyers highlighted that certain issues can only be addressed by a commission, and those issues must be addressed in the proper way and through proper process.
“Obviously there are issues right now,” he said. “But what would be the incentive to dragging this out or showing favoritism…we simply want to do our job.”
A public figure in Marshfield for decades, Meyers added that he has learned from his experience serving throughout the years on various committees and commissions, and as mayor at one point.
“I don’t know what more I can say on behalf of the commission. I like what I’m doing. The commissioners all like what they’re doing. They take it seriously,” he said. “We are governed by a state statute that lets us hire and fire, set policy, and give the oversight to the two departments and it’s outside the political arena. If anybody has any questions of me, I’d like to be able to answer.”
“If we don’t cross all the ‘t’s’ and dot all the ‘i’s’, there will be a lot more attorney fees involved,” he added.
“If we push too quickly, then we put ourselves out there for a lawsuit and that’s not what we want either,” added Spiros. “You have to trust the process. It is not being delayed by us. It is not being delayed by the PFC. We are following the law. We are following attorneys’ advice that was given to us.”
Marshfield Police & Fire Commission next meets Wednesday morning. The meeting will be live streamed through the City website. On the agenda is a “Hearing: In the Matter of Charges Filed Against Chief of Police Richard Gramza; establish hearing protocol, establish any evidentiary issues and set further scheduling.”
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