Attorney General: Major John Watson, Executive Officer, Connecticut State Police, 1990-019 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 7, 1990

Major John Watson
Executive Officer
Connecticut State Police
100 Washington Street
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

Dear Major Watson:

In a letter to us, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Mulligan requested our advice regarding the propriety of state police and local constables entering upon private property for the purpose of enforcing an ordinance of the town of Woodbury regarding the removal of junked cars from private property. We conclude that neither the resident state trooper nor the local constables, while they are acting under the trooper's supervision and direction, may be designated to enforce the ordinance.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. e14-150a:

Any municipality may, by action of its legislative body, provide for the removal of abandoned, inoperable or unregistered motor vehicles within the limits of such municipality which remain unremoved for thirty days after: (1) Notice to the owner of the property on which such motor vehicle so remains, requesting removal of such motor vehicle and (2) notice in a newspaper having a substantial circulation in such municipality. The legislative body shall designate the local board or officer who shall be responsible for notifying such owner, causing publication of the general notice and for removal and disposition of such motor vehicles.

The town of Woodbury, in accordance with the above statute, has adopted an ordinance1 which provides that no person shall leave any motor vehicle which is in a wrecked, dismantled, partially dismantled, inoperative or junked condition, whether registered or not, upon any property other than his own for more than twenty-four (24) hours. Woodbury, Conn. Ordinances, Section 11-2(a)(1). Unregistered motor vehicles in the above-stated condition cannot be left on a person's own property for more than seventy-two (72) hours. Woodbury Conn. Ordinances, Section 11-2(a) (2). 2 In each case the ordinance declares the presence of such motor vehicle a public nuisance which may be abated in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance.

As to the first type of motor vehicle the ordinance requires that the procedures set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. e14-150 be followed. As to the second type of motor vehicle the ordinance provides that:

(2) Upon the determination by any police officer agent that a violation of Subsection (a)(2) has been committed, the police officer shall affix to such motor vehicle a notification sticker in a manner so as to be readily visible. The notification sticker shall contain the following information: (1) the date and time the notification sticker was affixed to the motor vehicle (2) a statement that the motor vehicle must be removed within seventy-two (72) hours (3) the location and telephone number where additional information may be obtained and (4) the identity of the affixing officer.

(3) If the motor vehicle is not removed within said seventy-two (72) hours, a notice in writing shall be sent by certified mail to: (i) the owner of the motor vehicle, if known and (ii) the occupant of the property where the abandoned vehicle exists or the owner of the property, if different from above. A publication of the notice to any and all interested parties shall be printed one (1) time in a newspaper having a substantial circulation in the Town of Woodbury.

(aa) Said notice shall state that the said motor vehicle shall be removed by the owner of such motor vehicle, or by the owner or occupant of the property upon which such motor vehicle is located, as the case may be, within thirty (30) days from the date of publication of the notice.

(bb) Failure by the owner of the motor vehicle, if known, or the owner or occupant of the property on which said motor vehicle is stored, as the case may be, to remove such motor vehicle shall be deemed a violation of Subsection (a)(2) and shall be subject to the penalties hereinafter provided. At such time, any police officer shall have the right to take possession of the motor vehicle and remove it from the premises. The owner of the motor vehicle or the owner or occupant of the property, as the case may be, shall be responsible for all fines and expenses incurred for removal and storage of the motor vehicle until the motor vehicle is claimed or disposed of pursuant to subsection (d) herein.

Conn. Gen. Stat. e7-148(c)(7)(E) allows a municipality to "[d]efine, prohibit and abate within the municipality all nuisances and causes thereof, and all things deterimental to the health, morals, safety, convenience and welfare of its inhabitants and cause the abatement of any nuisance at the expense of the owner or owners of the premises on which such nuisance exists." As noted above, pursuant to the ordinance, junked motor vehicles are deemed public nuisances subject to abatement.

In Lieutenant Colonel Mulligan's letter he inquired as to who has the power and authority to enforce the ordinance.

Conn. Gen. Stat. e14-150a requires that in adopting an ordinance under that statute "[t]he legislative body shall designate the local board or officer who shall be responsible for notifying such owner, causing publication of the general notice and for removal and disposition of such motor vehicle." (Emphasis added).

The Woodbury ordinance designates "any police officer" as having "the right to take possession of the motor vehicle and remove it from the premises." Woodbury, Conn. Ordinances, Section 11-2(c)(3)(bb). While the ordinance does not define "police officer," the ordinance must be read so that it is consistent with the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. e 14-150a.

It is well settled law that as a creation of the state, a municipality has no inherent powers of its own; New Haven Commission on Equal Opportunities v. Yale University, 183 Conn. 495, 499, 439 A.2d 404 (1981); and that a municipality possesses only such rights and powers that have been granted expressly to it by the state or that are necessary to discharge its duties and to carry out its objectives and purposes. Id., 402 citing City Council v. Hall, 180 Conn. 243, 248, 429 A.2d 481 (1980); see also Simmons v. Canty, 195 Conn. 524, 529 488 A.2d 1267 (1985); Buonocore v. Branford, 192 Conn. 399, 401-402, 471 A.2d 961 (1984).

Blue Sky Bar, Inc. v. Stratford, 203 Conn. 14, 19 (1987). (footnote omitted).

Since e 14-150a provides the town only with the authority to designate a "local" board or officer to carry out the provisions of the ordinance, the reference to "any police officer" in the ordinance must be interpreted as referring only to local police officers.

Conn. Gen. Stat. e29-5 provides that the commissioner of public safety may enter into agreements and contracts for the provision of resident state policemen in towns lacking an organized police force. Under the authority of this statute the commissioner of public safety has entered into a contract with the town of Woodbury to provide the services of a resident trooper. Thus, the question arises as to whether or not the resident state trooper can enforce the ordinance.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. e29-5 "[t]he commissioner of public safety shall exercise such supervision and direction over any resident policemen so appointed as he deems necessary, and each appointee shall be required to conform to the requirements of Chapter 67 [State Personnel Act]." The statute also provides that "[e]ach resident state policemen shall have the same powers as officers of the regular state police force and be entitled to the same rights and subject to the same rules and regulations as the division of state police within the department of public safety." By statute, resident state policemen, upon their assignment to a town, retain their status as "state" police officers.

Although resident state policemen may perform local functions when they have the requisite authority, they do not become "local officers" within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. e14-150a. "To say that an office was a local one has always meant that it was not a state office, but an office of one of the political subdivisions or municipal corporations of the state." (footnote omitted). 62 C.J.S. Municipal Corporations e462 (1949). Similarly, where the state has delegated state functions to a local board, the officers of that board do not become officers of the state. Cheshire v. McKenney, 182 Conn. 253,258-260 (1980). Since they are not "local" officers, a resident state trooper cannot be designated to enforce an ordinance adopted pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.  e14-150a.

The second part of Lieutenant Colonel Mulligan's inquiry is whether the local constables may enforce the ordinance. Whether local constables may enforce the ordinance is a question which must be answered by the town attorney. However, if local constables do enforce the Woodbury ordinance, such action cannot be taken under the supervision and direction of the resident trooper. Since it is not permissible under Conn. Gen. Stat.  e14-150a for the town to designate the resident state trooper to enforce the ordinance, the resident state trooper cannot be required to supervise and direct the local constables in the enforcement of the ordinance, should they be so designated.

Very truly yours,

CLARINE NARDI RIDDLE
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Jane S. Scholl
Associate Attorney General

CNR/JSS/jm

Enc.

200


1 A complete copy of the ordinance is attached.

2 The ordinance is not applicable to vehicles enclosed within a building on private property, those held in connection with a lawful business, racecars or antique cars. Woodbury, Conn. Ordinances, Section 11-2(a)(3).


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