A 16-year veteran of the Police Department, forced to resign four years ago after police said he was caught peeping into a woman's window, must be examined to determine whether he should instead have been allowed to retire with a disability.
While state Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe said Tuesday the town's retirement board made an otherwise reasonable decision to deny Nicholas Vanghele a disability retirement, the Bridgeport-based judge nonetheless found that the board had not evaluated medical evidence in making that decision.
"The court does not, in any way, criticize the individual members of the retirement board who testified at trial and who voted to deny the disability pension based upon the evidence presented," Radcliffe stated in his 15-page decision. "The only basis for finding in favor of the plaintiff in this action is that no medical evidence supported the otherwise reasonable conclusion that he was not entitled to a disability pension."
The judge ordered that Vanghele be examined by a doctor selected by the retirement board, and that the board then make a decision based on that doctor's opinion.
"We are pleased former Officer Vanghele will finally have the decision whether he is entitled to a disability pension based on a proper medical opinion," said Vanghele's lawyer, Thomas Bucci. "That's what we were asking for all along."
On Oct. 21, 2009, Vanghele, at the time a sergeant, agreed to resign after he was caught at night outside another officer's home.
Vanghele, who now manages a housing-flipping company in Shelton and is pursuing a modeling career, testified his memory is "spotty" regarding the events of that early morning, Sept. 20, 2009. But according to court documents, at about 2 a.m. the wife of another Fairfield police sergeant contacted her husband, who was on duty, and told him a man was on their home's back deck looking in the window. Police cruisers were dispatched to the area and a figure was spotted running from the sergeant's property. A patio chair was found placed under the home's rear bay window, according to the report.
Police scoured the area and officers spotted a man hunched forward, hiding his face, in a car parked nearby.
With guns drawn, officers ordered the man to get out of the car, and to their surprise it turned out to be Vanghele, who claimed he had come to the scene after hearing of the incident on the radio, police documents state.
During a subsequent investigation, the documents state, Vanghele told officers he had been on the fellow officer's property because he had been having a sexual relationship with the wife for eight years. However, he later contacted the woman's husband and admitted he had lied about the affair to avoid getting fired.
The police investigation also uncovered similar trespassing incidents by Vanghele involving other women, the documents state. He was never charged with any crime.
Following the investigation, Vanghele was given a choice: resign or be fired. He agreed to resign and was given two months' salary, pay for unused sick and vacation time, and paid health care for six months.
In his lawsuit against the town, Vanghele claims he should have been given a third choice of retiring with a disability, so that he would get 66 percent of his yearly pay. He claims in his lawsuit that his actions were the result of his addiction to medication and alcohol, caused by an injury to his arm suffered in a 2005 car crash while on duty.
That injury, and the pain it caused him, disabled him from performing his duties as a police officer, Vanghele claims.
But under questioning by the town's lawyer, Robin Kallor, during the trial before Radcliffe, Vanghele testified that in 2009 he qualified to shoot with both hands and played softball on the Police Department's team as both an outfielder and catcher.
"But I really sucked," he added.