Monroe police officer battled cancer, now the police department
MONROE — After battling brain cancer, a Monroe police officer is fighting to get back to his job.
Andrew Wall, 53, of Newtown, has been a police officer for the Monroe Police Department for 22 years. In September 2015, Wall was diagnosed with an aggressive cancerous brain tumor, known as glioblastoma.
“I’m lucky enough to live through this,” Wall said of the cancer.
But Monday evening, Wall faces another battle: trying to get back to his job. He has a pre-termination hearing Monday evening that will decide the fate of his position as a Monroe police officer.
When he was diagnosed, doctors gave Wall six months to one year to live, he said. In order to undergo treatment, Wall went on long-term disability.
Wall said he discussed his options with doctors beyond standard treatments and they found a clinical trial for him to participate in — one that required infusions of an immunotherapy drug.
“Man, am I glad we chose that one,” Wall laughed.
After more than a year and a half of chemotherapy, radiation and trial treatments, Wall is cancer-free.
He received a Medal of Valor from the Monroe Police Department on May 17 for his battle with cancer.
“Officer Wall has remained positive and has done everything in his power to fight this cancer and return to work as a police officer,” the certificate said.
Wall has since been cleared by his doctor—David Reardon, clinical director at the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston—to return to work without any restrictions.
He received that same work clearance from his additional doctor, Robert Kloss of Western Connecticut Medical Group.
But Wall cannot simply return to work.
Wall’s pre-termination hearing is set for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Monroe Town Hall Council Chambers. Wall said he requested the hearing be open to the public.
Capt. Keith White of the Monroe Police Department said the hearing will take place before the four members of the Board of Police Commissioners. He said representation for the police union will be present at the hearing.
“The way it works here in Monroe, the hiring and firing is done by the board,” White said.
White said the board will hear both sides of the situation before they make a decision. He said the hearing could end in one of two ways—with Wall’s termination or reinstatement.
If Wall is reinstated, White said, he will be given a date at which he can return to work, but he may have to provide an additional doctor’s note clearing him to return.
In regard to the details that prompted the hearing, White said he was not able to elaborate much.
He said the hearing was not prompted by any disciplinary issues, but rather from some disagreement between Wall and the department about the letters he provided from his doctors about returning to work.
And Wall’s brother, Daniel Wall, said he thinks the confusion with the letters was because his brother provided a letter from his doctor in Boston initially and then a second letter was provided by his Connecticut-based doctor — both who worked closely on Wall’s treatment.
“We’re hoping they (the board) can hear the facts as they are and make proper judgment,” White said.
On June 8, a lawsuit was filed on Wall’s behalf by Sandy Hook-based Paes and Paes, LLC, against the Town of Monroe, the Monroe Police Department and the department’s chief, John L. Salvatore. The lawsuit refers to the three entities as “Monroe.”
The lawsuit said Wall received a letter from Monroe on Oct. 31, 2016, that he had been absent from his job at the department for one year, as of Sept. 20, 2016. He had sixty days from the date of the letter to provide a doctor’s note that he could return to work within 18 months of Sept. 20, 2015—when he left for treatment.
That meant Wall needed his doctor to say he could return to work by March 20, 2017.
By Dec. 15, 2016, Wall’s doctor said it was too soon to definitely decide. On Jan. 17, Monroe said that was insufficient, to which Wall’s doctor again said it was still “premature” to make a decision.
On Feb. 1, Monroe sent Wall forms for “light duty.” Shortly after, the lawsuit said Wall provided the forms and a doctor’s letter approving him for “light duty” work.
On March 10, Monroe told Wall “no light duty was available,” the lawsuit said. This letter also instructed Wall to provide certification from his doctor that he was cleared to return to full duty.
Wall sent Monroe a letter from his doctor—written on March 15—that said he could return to work full-time without restrictions on March 16.
On April 21, Wall received notice of a pre-termination hearing. The lawsuit said the reason for the hearing was Wall’s failure to present a letter from his doctor that he would be able to return to job as a police officer within 18 months of Sept. 20, 2015 —even though he had.
Wall was no longer receiving long-term disability benefits from the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company as of May 17, a letter from the company said.
“We have received information that you were released to return to work on a full-time basis without restrictions. Therefore, you are no longer disabled,” the letter said.
The Monroe Police Union received a copy of this letter from the insurance company.
The treasurer of the union, Helio Ramalhete, sent a letter to the town’s human resources department—dated July 12—that said Wall was not receiving a salary from the police department.
Ramalhete stated a “Police Union Membership List” provided by the Monroe Human Resources Department showed that he had been removed “prior to a pre-termination hearing ... without just cause.”
More information regarding the police department’s decisions is expected to be made clear at Monday’s hearing.