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Renton Police sergeant to retire over video controversy

A Renton Police sergeant who withheld knowledge of who created a video critical of the new regional SCORE jail will retire early next year, under a settlement reached with the City of Renton.

Today is the last day on the job for Sgt. Charles Marsalisi, who will use accrued leave to remain on the city payroll until his official retirement on Feb. 29, 2012.

A hearing of the Renton Civil Service Commission was scheduled to begin on Tuesday to hear Marsalisi's appeal of his demotion from deputy police chief to sergeant in July. But that hearing was canceled after Marsalisi and the City of Renton reached a separation agreement last Friday, said Preeti Shridhar, a city spokeswoman.

"We are pleased that we came to an agreement and we both found ways to resolve our issues and move forward," said Shridhar of the settlement, which becomes effective on Friday.

Marsalisi and the city had been talking for about a week before the settlement was reached, she said. Such settlements are a part of the civil service process, she said.

The Renton Reporter is attempting to contact Marsalisi for comment.

Marsalisi was demoted from deputy police chief to sergeant in July as part of the Police Department’s investigation of the circumstances surrounding who created nine parodies of the Renton Police Department and the new SCORE jail earlier this year.

Marsalisi, 53, filed his grievance with the Civil Service Commission on July 13, the standard procedure for non-union members. He has been with the  Police Department for 18 1/2 years.

Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich said in an earlier interview with the Renton Reporter that Marsalisi didn't create the initial video about the SCORE jail, but he withheld information about who did. A Police Department investigation found that Bill Judd created the SCORE video late last year when he was a sergeant.

Judd was demoted to police officer; the City of Renton denied his appeal.  The executive committee of the Renton Police Officers Guild will meet in two weeks to consider whether to represent Judd and two other Police Department employees in filing a grievance against the city.

Besides Judd, speaking before the executive committee and the guild attorney will be Sgt. Steve Ritchie and Officer Tom Smith. Ritchie and Smith were disciplined by the Police Department for their roles in the controversy, Smith when he was an acting sergeant.

"This is a First Amendment issue," said Sgt. Craig Sjolin, guild president. The question becomes whether the discipline fit the situation, if creation of the videos was protected speech, he said.

"That is potentially what the guild will grieve," he said.

The guild did not represent Marsalisi because he was not part of the bargaining unit when his violation occurred. He is a member now, as a sergeant.

"I wish the best for Chuck for now and in the future," said Sjolin, speaking for himself and the guild.

The creator of eight other videos went by the online name, MrFuddlesticks. Judd has indicated to Sjolin that he is not MrFuddlesticks.

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