Forced to resign after he was caught peeping into a woman's window, a 16-year veteran of the Fairfield Police Department is suing the town, claiming he should have been allowed to retire with a disability.
"Being a police officer was in my blood -- my mother was a probation officer, my brother is a police officer," Nicholas Vanghele testified Thursday before state Superior Court Judge Dale Radcliffe in Bridgeport. "I always felt I would go out in a body bag with honors."
Instead, according to court documents, on Oct. 21, 2009, Vanghele agreed to resign after he was discovered at night outside another officer's home.
The former police sergeant, who now manages a housing-flipping company in Shelton and is pursuing a modeling career, attributes the behavior that led to his forced resignation to an injury he suffered while on duty and resulting addictions.
Vanghele, whose modeling bio lists his age at 42, testified that his memory is "spotty" about the early morning of Sept. 20, 2009.
About 2 a.m. that day, court records indicate, the wife of another sergeant in the Fairfield Police Department contacted her husband, who was on duty, and told him a man was on their back deck, looking in through the window. Numerous police cars were sent to the area and a figure was spotted running from the scene, court documents say; a patio chair was found placed under the home's rear bay window.
When police scoured the area, officers spotted a man hunched over and hiding his face in a parked car nearby, records show. With guns drawn, officers ordered the man out, and to their surprise found Vanghele, who claimed he had come to the scene after hearing of the situation on the radio, the documents state.
During a subsequent investigation, the documents state, Vanghele told officers he had been on the co-worker'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 being fired, court records say.
The police investigation uncovered similar trespassing incidents by Vanghele involving other women, the documents state. He was never charged with a crime. However, 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, Vanghele, who is represented by lawyer Thomas Bucci, 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 on Sept. 20, 2009, were the result of his addiction to medication and alcohol caused by an arm injury he suffered in a 2005 car crash while on duty.
That injury and the pain it caused disabled him from performing his duties as a police officer, he claims.
But under questioning by the town's lawyer, Robin Kallor, Vanghele testified that in 2009 he qualified to shoot with both hands and played softball on the Police Department's team as an outfielder and catcher.
"But I really sucked," he added.