Sgt. Stephen Wagner
By Michelle Laczkoski/Daily News staff
Posted Oct 22, 2008 @ 10:24 PM
Almost five years after Police Sgt. Stephen Wagner said he was injured breaking up a fight at a local nightclub, the town retirement board has placed him on disability.
Wagner was placed on "ordinary disability" this week, meaning his inability to work was not due to a job-related injury, said Police Sgt. David Sacco, who is chairman of the Milford Retirement Board.
Doctors may reevaluate Wagner in three years and determine if he can return to work. If he is deemed fit for duty, Wagner could fill the next vacancy at the department.
Regardless of the outcome, Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin said he is glad the board made a decision.
"With this injury, he cannot perform his duties," O'Loughlin said. "This gives me the opportunity to hire someone to do just that."
Sacco said the unanimous decision came Tuesday after lengthy deliberation during the board's monthly meeting.
"He has a long and distinguished career. Unfortunately, he has a medical condition that at this point is hindering him for performing his duties to the fullest extent," Sacco said. "It's difficult for the town, administration, Police Department and retirement board."
Wagner, 41, who worked for the department for nearly 20 years, has been sidelined on and off by injuries to both knees dating back to early 2004.
On Feb. 14, 2004, police were called to the American Athletic Club, a now-closed nightclub on East Main Street, for a large disturbance. The incident, which netted about seven arrests, is where Wagner says he was hurt, Sacco said.
Wagner was out with a knee injury from February 2006 until June 2007, when a doctor hired by the town determined him fit to return to duty.
The union filed a grievance on Wagner's behalf last June with O'Loughlin, who denied it. He has worked on "light duty" since, the chief said.
Wagner applied for accident disability in January, blaming his injuries to an on-the-job incident. O'Loughlin filed for ordinary disability retirement as well as for regular retirement on Wagner's behalf.
An ordinary disability retirement is the result of a medical condition unrelated to the job. An accident disability retirement is a medical condition caused by the job, according to the state's Web site.
A medical panel of three physicians evaluated Wagner to determine whether he is both disabled from the job and that the disability is permanent.
At the hearing, the board discussed the doctors' findings, which concluded Wagner "was not fit for duty and could not find approximate cause related to an on-the-job injury," Sacco said.
The board voted to grant Wagner ordinary disability, which means he will receive from 48 to 50 percent of his base pay, with federal tax deductions, for the rest of his life.
Wagner's most recent salary is $86,109, Sacco said.
If he received accident disability, Wagner would be entitled to 72 percent of his pay, tax-free.
Officials expect Wagner to file an appeal.
In June 2007, Wagner had received more than $230,000 in sick leave pay and medical bills, according to information from the town administrator and town treasurer. Updated figures were not made available yesterday.
Wagner is not eligible for regular retirement as he is not vested for 20 years, Sacco said.
Wagner could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The chief said he supports the sergeant's ultimate goal to rehabilitate and return to the department.
"I'm all for it," he said.