Bristol Town Council stands by harbormaster

Coast Guard veteran Gregg Marsili serves as the new Town of Bristol Harbormaster. Coast Guard veteran Gregg Marsili serves as the new Town of Bristol Harbormaster.

Coast Guard veteran Gregg Marsili serves as the new Town of Bristol Harbormaster.

Coast Guard veteran Gregg Marsili serves as the new Town of Bristol Harbormaster.

An investigation of the newly hired harbormaster’s past has been finished and laid to rest, according to Bristol Town Council Chairwoman Mary Parella.

Just two days after the Town of Bristol appointed Gregg Marsili as the new harbormaster, Ms. Parella said the council was informed of an incident in Mr. Marsili’s past while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard.

“None of the rumors contained any allegation of criminal conduct by Mr. Marsili,” Ms. Parella stated in a May 25 press release. “However, they did question his judgement and handling of an incident under his command.”

The incident in question involved a woman named Panayiota Bertzikis, who enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2005. Ms. Bertzikis was serving at the Coast Guard station in Burlington, Vt., in 2006, when she alleged she was raped by a fellow Coast Guard member. According to Ms. Bertzikis, her claim was never investigated by her commanding officer, Mr. Marsili, and no charges were ever filed against her alleged attacker.

Instead, Ms. Bertzikis said she was “revictimized” by Mr. Marsili’s inaction. Her experience lead her to create the Military Rape Crisis Center, for which she serves as executive director.

As recently as 2011, Ms. Bertzikis was one of 17 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, for the Pentagon’s handling of reported rapes and sexual abuse.

“Gregg retained an impeccable record while in the Coast Guard,” said Ms. Parella, adding that she spoke at-length with high-ranking Coast Guard officials regarding Mr. Marsili and his handling of the incident.

The Coast Guard also issued a press release relative to Ms. Parella’s inquiry, stating that the Coast Guard “initiated a criminal investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving members of Coast Guard Station Burlington, Vt., in 2006 … The allegations were investigated by Coast Guard Investigative Service; that investigation is now closed.

“At the conclusion of any investigation, the Coast Guard has numerous mechanisms to hold individuals accountable, both in an administrative and disciplinary context, if deemed necessary. A review of Chief Marsili’s personnel record shows no disciplinary actions taken or pending, and no derogatory administrative remarks,” the release stated.

“I think (the council) made a very good choice to move our harbor forward,” Ms. Parella said.

Mr. Marsili, a 20-year veteran of the Coast Guard, was selected to serve as harbormaster on May 22.

The council created a separate search committee comprised of citizens to ensure “that every (candidate) was treated fairly,” Ms. Parella said. Following several months of searching, the committee named Mr. Marsili, interim harbormaster and former assistant harbormaster Matthew Calouro, and David M. Sylvaria as potential candidates.

All three candidates were interviewed extensively by the council before a decision was made.

“Like any other job application, everyone should have realized that it was a pretty competitive process,” Ms. Parella said. “I think we have a great harbormaster, and if we all just let him do his job, he will yield great results.”

Mr. Marsili declined to comment.

34 Comments

  1. pok6822 said:

    I am Panayiota’s husband. I met Panayiota in Boston when she was first sent to the station in Boston’s North End. This was the same time that Panayiota was being evaluated by the USCG and questioned by the USCG legal department. I witnessed some shocking events that to this day even give me nightmares. For one, I was a witness when Panayiota met with the USCG legal department, I sat there as this person grilled her and intimidated her out of testifying against her attacker. Threats like we will attack your character and will keep you on the stand for over 5 hours questioning you were made. Let’s rewind…shortly before meeting with the legal team Panayiota showed me her evidence which was a letter of admission from her attacker at Station Burlington. It was a hand written letter that her attacker slipped under her door to her barrack. That letter was never seen again after turned into the USCG. Fast forward many years later and many people have come forward with stories in all branches of the military similar to Panayiota’s. All you need to do is a simple google search and you will find them. Now, sure Greg (I wont call him Mr. Marsilli) has a clean record….because thats how the corrupt system works, what would happen if the USCG admitted what happened? Imagine the fallout from that. So good luck with your harbormaster. I personally cannot wait for a time when an outside agency investigates rape in the military instead of the commanding offers or anyone in the military. So in closing please educate yourself before publishing such an irresponsible article. I’m now going to console my wife as I have for seven years because she cant sleep, loses motivation, and has constant ptsd episodes due to her rape and the way Greg handled this situation.

    • kkondej said:

      Chairwoman Parella comments that Marsili “…will yield great results.” Lucky for Marsili: he has the opportunity to continue proving himself. Not so lucky for the victim in this saga: Marsili’s cruel indifference and mishandling of this rape case denied her the opportunity to pursue her career and demonstrate “great results.” This bright, extremely qualified, exemplary woman is instead searching for stability, battling PTSD, and finding what comfort she can with her husband and friends that love her. This is another case of re-victimizing…by the Bristol Town Council and Ms. O’Connor.

  2. Althea Sellars said:

    I apologize, Ms. O’Connor, but this article could not be more off-base. There has been so much evidence of the Coast Guard systematically cutting out evidence in sexual assault charges, and articles like this, glorifying those who cover up sexual violence against men and women, are part of the problem. Any person would have a clean record if they actively work to keep their officers’ records clean. Women are more likely to be assaulted serving in our military than killed in the line of duty. It’s the culture that this article perpetuates that is responsible.

    In the future, please fact check articles when the women and men who put their lives on the line for our country are at stake.

  3. Deena Fulton said:

    I read the article and I am incensed. Again all you have done it make her feel like a victim. Read the newspapers, listen to the news. Covering up rape is the military’s M O. In case you are too ignorant to understand that, it means the way the military does business. How dare you publish her name like that. Being a victim myself I understand how she feels, she has been raped again and this time you are the perpetrator. Shame on you.

  4. Brian Lewis said:

    Of course Marsili has a clean record. The Coast Guard has never taken allegations of rape seriously. Reading about one more commander who swept illegal conduct under the rug is no surprise.

    What really troubles me is that this reporter did not even bother to interview Panayiota Bertzikis before publishing this article. I would think basic journalism ethics would demand calling the other party and getting a reaction. Panayiota deserved to have a chance to respond before this reporter and this paper smeared her good name.

  5. Tanya Austin said:

    If your town council can stand by this man’s inaction, then shame on them. I will be adding Bristol to list list of places I will never visit and never spend my money in. Shame on you for supporting a man who caused so much unnecessary pain and suffering.

  6. Sherry Kurtz said:

    Did you really think you would find something in his Coast Guard records? That’s the point the investigations are shady and that’s a tame word for it! Until investigations,reporting is out of the Chain Of Commands hands period-there’s nothing you or anyone will find on most old cases/or in fact new. If in fact he alleged he investigated the proper channels/and or way-then why did this have to be done on him again? It should have showed in court records. I would think every report of crime , if the perp is caught /known/absent-should go to criminal proceedings. I feel sad for any young people who might come forward in your community, from ANYONES actions. Might you put them in the news this way? Would you go to great lengths to try and defend them or would you be another Steubenville insider? If you wanted to write a great article on this guy fine, your choice-but really to bring up his- he did nothing wrong in a rape case was just purely delusional on your part. Anyone who has ever had to go through reporting RAPE in the Military system will KNOW this. This article should have never been about his position on investigation being “LAID TO REST” there are 26,000 DOD own numbers who will tell you reporting is not being done right. Regardless of what he alleges he did its not a right system!

  7. Richard Hudak said:

    Clearly, military sexual trauma is a systemic issue. As with clergy sex abuse, victims are systematically victimized by the institution the expect to be able to trust. Congratulations, Bristol Town Council, for joining such besmirched company, for dragging your town into the gutter, for making it another victimizing system, and for having the audacity to further victimize a particular individual. Congratulations, too, EastBayRI.com for breaches of journalistic ethics and practice, supporting the confusion of many that Internet journalism is not “real journalism.”

  8. MelissaB said:

    Gregg Marsili should be in jail, not receiving promotions!

  9. #MilitaryRapeJUSTICE said:

    Fact: 26,300 estimated sexual assaults per year occur in the military and this does not include the USCG who is about 10 years behind the Dept of Defense because they are the Department of Homeland Security. It’s pretty evident that what happened to Panayiota after she reported the crime, is what happens to most which is why only 3,374 reported the crimes perpetrated against them. Its not the crimes that cause the debilitating PTSD we experience, it the treatment by people like Marsilli that is causing all the damage. Can you imagine being raped, reporting it, retaliated against, and then booted because you reported the crime. Something is wrong with this picture. Thank you Panayiota for have the fortitude, strength, and determination to create the Military Rape Crisis Center so that no one ever goes through what you had to go through. You are my shero. And this town council looks like fools for hiring this monster. He must have an in or be related to someone in that town. How dare you people discount the actions of a rape apologist? I have absolutely zero respect for this town after reading this article. I am sickened.

  10. Leslie Boyd said:

    I agree with all of the above comments negatively reflecting this article, and really have little to add. The town of Bristol should be embarrassed to have such unprofessional people representing them; from harbor masters to journalists, it is clear that hiring ethical and noble people is not a priority. It think its really awesome Gregg had the opportunity to decline to comment while Mrs. Bertzikis was never given the same chance to offer a single word about herself or the past incidents which involved her for this article….I honestly can’t believe anyone with the credentials to be a journalist thought putting a victims name in an article in which they were never even asked to participate would be an ethical or smart thing to do, shame on you all…Marsili, O’Conner, and those in town that hired and support this man.

  11. Scott Pickering said:

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing opinions on this very important and sensitive topic. We faced a few obstacles with this story. First of all, we publish a small-town weekly newspaper with a dedicated news staff of one. Our ability to re-investigate a seven-year-old military case that happened hundreds of miles away from here is, as you can imagine, limited. So we chose not to.

    Instead, we focused on what the Town of Bristol did, or did not do, to investigate the person it hired. You may agree or disagree with our handling of this story, and we accept all criticism. However, please know that as East Bay Newspapers General Manager, I spoke to Panayiota Bertzikis by phone this week and listened to her claims about Greg Marsili. We are very sympathetic to her. We had no intention of “re-victimizing” her. So we published a summary of her claims and focused on what Mr. Marsili’s boss had to say here in the present. Thank you for reading, and thank you for a responsible discussion on this topic.

    • MelissaB said:

      Scott, did you really expect anything different from the military? They’ve been covering up a culture of rampant sexual assault for DECADES. What happened to Py is not just “CLAIMS”, it’s the TRUTH.

    • pok6822 said:

      Scott,

      You know what’s really embarrassing for you? Other than the fact the article in YOUR paper/site has no fact checking? It’s the fact that you misspelled the man’s name that this article is about. His name is Gregg not Greg. More evidence that this story was slapped in place with no care and no research what so ever by a couple of reporters that have zero remorse for placing an article up that doesn’t tell the story.

      Great job Scot (yeah I left out a T) Gonna use that one for the word Terrible as in your paper, and council member is Terrible.

      If you want to do the right thing you should be putting together an apology letter to Panayiota for using her name in this article and for painting her as anything other that a good person who told the truth and got punished for it!

    • Bridget Flanagan said:

      Just because you have a small paper it doesn’t justify poor journalism. In the future, you should show more sensitivity to victims.

  12. pok6822 said:

    Scott, you contacted Panayiota while in your car, took a brief statement, and told her that the reporter Christine O’Connor would be calling her on Tuesday which she never did. Christine O’Connor never spoke with Panayiota.

    • MelissaB said:

      EXACTLY! She just took the word of someone who locked a rape survivor in a closet.

  13. ck128 said:

    It is also unconscionable the article names the rape survivor, without her permission.

  14. ck128 said:

    My previous posts may have beenclear–I did not mean to state that Gregg raped the survivor, but rather that he tortured and abused the assualt surviver after she reporter to Gregg her rape by another Coast Guard member and that Gregg covered all of this up.

  15. Rebecca (Hoi Sum) said:

    I agree with all of the comments already posted, except Scott Pickering! The town of Bristol should be embarrassed to have such unprofessional and unethical people representing them! I am so ashamed of our current military rape culture and publishing articles this like only helps to perpetuate that culture. We live in a world where reported rapes are not taken seriously and are swept under the rug by the commanding officers they are reported to, including Marsili! Rape is a crime! We should have a zero tolerance policy towards sexual assault! Our military men and women deserve better! I am disgusted by this article and it’s open support of a rape apologist! Shame on this paper and all of it’s employees for publishing this piece of trash!

  16. pok6822 said:

    To raise awareness and to clear Panayiota’s name I am proposing a protest and press conference in the town of Bristol. Will need volunteers. Please contact us on Panayiota’s FB account if you are in the area or could be.

  17. Danielle Carey-Mooney said:

    At first I thought about how betrayed I feel by his inaction as a result of the rape, but then I thought about how he’s not guilty of inaction… he didn’t just sit by while others got away with such a horrible deed, he actually helped them get away with it. In my eyes, that makes him as guilty as the rapist.

    However, Ms. Parella, your inaction is a betrayal. Rape culture is alive and kicking in Bristol, Rhode Island! Don’t expect a visit from me.

  18. Kate Weber said:

    At what level do we identify a person as a bystander? Because as far as I am concerned, seeing this article makes me feel like I need to do something. I mean, how can more and more levels of people hearing about this crime and the subsequent failures of leadership that continue, all the way down to YOU, the writer, and the paper. Everyone from the get-go has failed this woman.
    Marsili locked Ms. Bertzikis in a closet. He DID get elected.
    Mitt Romney put his dog on the roof. He did NOT get elected.
    A DOG gets more justice than a rape survivor? Give me a break! He failed to care for a person he was responsible to care for! He failed as a leader! Now you are putting him in another LEADERSHIP POSITION?
    Why are people really ignoring these red flags? What do YOU have to gain from ignoring facts? I see him as a liability and a city who is willing to lose tons of money in a lawsuit over this gys behavior.

    I also cannot possibly understand why you would not have taken advantage of the transparency and openness Ms. Bertzikis shared and was willing to share with you. You barely acknowledged that you spoke with her in this article. Its all very shady and frankly familiar. ALL OF IT.

  19. Kate Weber said:

    I just confirmed facts with Panayiota Bertzikis.

    1. She heard from Scott Pickering (from the paper) and he spoke with her briefly to confirm her number and advised he would have Christine O’Connor contact her. She never did.

    2. Bristol Town Council never made contact with Panayiota Bertzikis, who did reach out to them. She would have shared facts and evidence regarding Marsili that would have helped you prevent other crimes.

    3. Shame on you for publishing a rape victims name without the story she was willing to share. Instead you really crossed the line here and you owe her an apology or a follow up article stating the facts you all missed in the initial article.

    4. Here is a letter written to the Bristol Town Council that remains unanswered or acknowledged:

    Dear Ms. Parella,

    Our chapter of The National Organization for Women is focused on
    bringing attention to Military Sexual Abuse/Rape, Military Sexual
    Trauma and Sexualized Violence Against Women.

    We recently received the attached press release by email from an
    unknown source. Our chapter has a victim statement and other official documentation regarding Mr. Marsili’s part in the incident at Station Burlington, Vermont that we believe may be helpful in your
    investigation of the allegations. We would like to verify this press
    release actually came from your office before we send you our files on Mr. Marsili so the town of Bristol can include these files in their
    investigations.

    “First, do no harm”

  20. EBMC said:

    I believe that everyone deserves second chances and forgiveness and I extend that to this man as I would to anyone else. I can say that as a military rape survivor and as another US Coast Guard female that was discharged for “inability to handle” being raped. The military is rife with this sort of behavior and situational ignorance- rape, rapes being swept under the rug, blaming the victim to make a command look like it’s in control, and discharges under the guise of mental illness or misconduct.

    I am sickened to read this article. As soon as I read my shipmate’s name I felt a line had been crossed and it just continued to be crossed and then by the end it was dismissed as if it/she were of no consequence. Exactly how it happened to her (and me) while she was in the USCG.

    I think skewing this story in favor of a man with his so-called “impeccable record” was a poor choice by you, Christine O’Connor. My shipmate also had an impeccable record and still does, in my opinion, for the good she has done in the world. She has brought survivors together, has lent them an ear and given them a voice while carrying her own burden at the same time. She is a leader and a hero with an “Impeccable Record” of doing so.

    The insensitivity with which you wrote this article leads me to assume that you probably have little understanding of the extreme consequences of this specific type of trauma (military rape). I implore you to think twice before you splash a victims name throughout an article and drag her horrific- and still painful- story through the mud. It hurts her, the people who love her, and all the people who have had the same experience. We live with it daily and this article is what we survivors call a “trigger.”

    As for the man this article was supposed to be about- I believe that he dishonored the Coast Guard by not following our motto of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. There’s proof of this by his actions (or inaction) when a crime was reported to him. He did not honor or respect her, he was not devoted in his duty to keep this reprehensible behavior in check. He was not her hero.

    ‘Too long, didn’t read.’
    That’s OK, I said what I needed to say.

  21. Lisa Blank said:

    I emailed Ms. Parella weeks ago when she sent out a press release promising there would be an investigation into the allegations on the cover-up and violent episode involving locking a rape victim away in a janitor closet.
    I advised her and the Bristol City Council that I was happy to produce all the documentation needed on this case to show it was more than simple hearsay.

    No one responded to my offer.

    I don’t know how a complete investigation could be done without speaking to the survivor or reading the extensive documentation on this case.

    This article appears to imply it is the writers point of view Ms Bertzikis fabricated all or parts or her story. I thought we were getting past the myth that victims of rape and violence lie. It is those who attempt to cover up rape and violence that tell lies.

  22. Erin Matson said:

    This is a horrifying, sickening article to read in 2013 or any time. Naming a rape victim and sarcastically putting “revictimized” in quotation marks reveals exactly what this publication is doing to her. Two ways to help correct your error are to publish an apology to Ms. Bertzikis and to change your editorial guidelines on writing about violence against women.

  23. justice day said:

    Rape is part of the culture in the the US military. They rape fellow troops and civilians. Communities blatantly turning a blind eye to heinous men like this is why rape culture is alive and well in the US!

    This victim has come forward and put herself out there! If any of it was a lie why hasn’t anyone tried to go after her! This guy is clearly guilty. Doesn’t say much for this town!

  24. Melanie O'malley said:

    Briston Town Council Chairwoman, Mary Parella’s, remarks clearly illustrate the Town Counsil’s indifference not only to the past actions of Gregg Marsili but to the rights and well being of Panayiota Bertzikis. One need not assume that Marsili is guilty to know that the evidence presented by Town Council of his innocence is insufficient and contradictory to common sense.

    Christine O’Connor displays the same indifference for the rights and wellbeing of Ms. Bertzikis by failing to include a statement by her or, at the very least, by an organization well-informed on the matter of military rape and systematic cover-ups.

    Scott Pickering also displays this indifference when he defends the article by stating that the paper lacks the resources to investigate the incident being reported on when all that would have been necessary to make this article balanced is to include a statement by the victim as I suggested above.

    I hope that EastBayRI finds it’s courage and journalistic integrity because it matters greatly.

  25. Jennifer Carlie said:

    First of all if Ms. Bertzikis is reading this I want to thank you for your service.

    I am disgusted as most of you are that a rape victim name has been dragged into this small town politics/drama. It is clearly that Ms. Parella and the town council for Bristol, RI has a serious issue on their hand.

    I have done some research prior to posting this comment. It didn’t take long for me to find out that Ms. Bertzikis has a very impressive background. In 2010 she was awarded Massachusetts Unsung Heroine Award for her work in helping veterans and military members that have been assaulted.

    Senator Jehlen from Massachusetts had the following to say about Panayiota Bertzikis: “Panayiota is an individual who bravely survived a trauma and used the experience to create something that help

    Rep. Denise Provost from Massachusetts said: “It’s only because of institutions like the Unsung Heroine Awards that we fully appreciate all the good that people like Ms. Bertzikis are doing in our community.”

    http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/news/x1332176004/Sen-Jehlen-lauds-Somerville-s-Unsung-Heroine

    Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California called Panayiota a “shero” and praised her for her work. Congresswoman Speier dedicated a speech on the House floor for the amazing work that Panayiota Bertzikis is doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0LY3sc-OnM

    Just this month Glamour magazine and Boston magazine published articles about Ms. Bertzikis’ rape case. What was more upsetting to read than the act of rape it self is the command’s response to the rape. The command being Gregg Marsili.

    Now, I am not saying that false allegations do not happen HOWEVER when an individual has been working full time for the past 7 years on military rape issues it is highly unlikely that they are not telling the truth. I believe her.

    In the past year there have been 3 congressional hearings on the subject of rape in the military. The Military Rape Crisis Center (the organization that Panayiota Bertzikis founded) testified in one of those hearings. If the allegations were false the United States Congress would not have invited her organization and a staff member from that organization to testify before the Congress.

    The Coast Guard has a ridicules low prosecution rate for rape. Boston magazine reported that .9% of all rape cases go to trial. In other words 99.1% of rapes in the Coast Guard are said to be “unfound”. This is a very depressing statistic.

    The rape in Burlington, VT has been in the news since as far back as 2006. Gregg Marsili name was attached to the rape case almost from the start. This is not a scenario in which Marsili name was brought out of the blue when he was elected Harbormaster. If Ms. Parella did her research she would have seen creditable information that might have changed her decision on who to appoint as harbormaster. If Ms. Parella and the town council actually took the time to conduct a real investigation on this matter the town would not be in the national spotlight for discrediting a disabled veteran and rape survivor.

    The town council for the town of Bristol, RI has conducted the investigation the same exact way that the Coast Guard has the reputation of investigating rapes: They took a broom, lifted up the rug and swept the allegations right under.

    Ms. Parella was incorrect when she said that Gregg Marsili did not commit a criminal act. Under the UCMJ Gregg Marsili violated Article 134: Obstruction of Justice among other charges. This is indeed more than just “judgement” of how he handled a brutal rape.

    Now I want to mention a bit about the Bristol Phoenix attempt to discredit a disabled veteran. Panayiota Bertzikis has served her country honorably. Most will agree that she continues to serve her country every day through her organization. Reading the comments from her husband and others it is clear that she is suffering from physical and psychological injuries that resulted from her military service. Our young injured troops deserve the upmost respect when they come home from their military service. We, as a nation should support our troops. Suicide rate among veterans is at an all time high and as a nation we are partly to blame. We allowed individuals such as Christine O’Connor, Scott Pickering and Mary Parella to bring down out disabled veterans. This article from the Bristol Phoenix disrespect all veterans, rape survivors and the nation. Enough is enough.

    Christine O’Connor, Scott Pickering and Mary Parella should all step down from their positions for their failed attempt to discredit a disabled veteran and a rape victim.

  26. pok6822 said:

    Just to clarify for the above poster and to be fair Marsili was not the rapist

  27. ck128 said:

    Yes, I misspoke, I amended my statement in a comment below. I was typing too fast in my anger, and inadvertently made an incorrect statement.

  28. pok6822 said:

    Hi I’m Panayiota’s husband. If you would like to call her names or disrespect her in any way I’m sure you wont mind hiding from your keyboard and calling me or emailing me to do so?

    Just so you know my wife cannot just get on with her life, her life at times is a huge struggle. I am up at night consoling her because of nightmares she has. She has ptsd episodes regularly and this incident has had a very negative impact on her life. So shame on you for disrespecting her. What is your motive? It would be better that you say nothing than make yourself sound like an insensitive person for your comments.

    Here is my facebook link feel free to contact me I look forward to talking to you or cease and desist from causing her more harm with your insensitive comments.

    https://www.facebook.com/pokeefe6822

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