Attorney General: Honorable John F. Healy, Department of Liquor Control, 1991-006 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

February 11, 1991

Honorable John F. Healy
Chairman
Department of Liquor Control
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Chairman Healy:

This is in response to your request for an opinion concerning the terms of office of Commissioners of the Department of Liquor Control. Specifically, you seek an opinion on the applicability of Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-2, which states that Commissioners are to be appointed to staggered, six-year terms. For the following reasons, we believe that this provision was superseded in 1977 by Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-9a(c) which provides that Commissioners serve coterminously with the Governor, or until a successors chosen, whichever is later.

The provisions of Section 30-2 have existed, substantially unchanged, since the initial enactment of the modern Liquor Control Act. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. (1933 Sup.) 671b. This section, which provides for the appointment of three Commissioners, currently reads as follows:

On or before May first in the odd-numbered years, the governor shall appoint one member of the liquor control commission for a term of six years from the first day of May next following his appointment. He shall fill any vacancy for the unexpired portion of the term. Not more than two commissioners shall be of the same political party. Each commissioner shall take the oath prescribed for executive officers. The governor shall designate one of the commissioners to be chairman, during the pleasure of the governor. He may remove any commissioner as provided in section 4-12.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-2.

In 1977, the Connecticut General Assembly enacted sweeping changes in the way commissioners and other top, appointed state officials were to serve. This Act, known as the Executive Branch of Government Reorganization Act, provided, inter alia, that the term of each member of each board and commission within the state, with certain exceptions not here relevant, would "terminate on July 1, 1979, or upon the selection of a successor member, whichever is later." 1977 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 77-614, Sec. 13(b). Thereafter, the Reorganization Act provided, the terms of each such official would run coterminous with the Governor, or until a successor is chosen. Id. at Sec. 13(d). While some exceptions to this rule were written, no exception was made for Liquor Control Commissioners. The provision is codified in the chapter of the General Statutes respecting state appointive officers, and reads as follows:

Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the term of each member of each board and commission within the executive branch, except the state board of education, the board of governors of higher education, the gaming policy board, the state elections enforcement commission, the state properties review board, the state ethics commission, the commission on medicolegal investigations, the psychiatric security review board, the commission on fire prevention and control, the E 9-1-1 commission, the state commission on the arts and the board of trustees of each constituent unit of the state system of higher education, commencing on or after July 1, 1979, shall be coterminous with the term of the governor or until a successor is chosen whichever is later.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-9a(c).

The meaning of the statute is plain. "Notwithstanding" any provision of law to the contrary means without prevention or obstruction from or by; in spite of. Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged). Thus, Conn. Gen. Stat. 4--9a(c), by its terms, takes precedence over the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-2, at least with respect to superseding the inconsistent portions of section 30-2 and establishing that Liquor Control Commissioners are to serve terms that are coterminous, or of the same duration, as the term of the Governor. Accord, 86 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 15, (1986).

Consistent with Section 4-9a(c), and since the enactment of the Reorganization Act, Commissioners Healy, Snyder and Costello have received appointments which do not specify six-year terms. Instead, they have been appointed to serve "at the pleasure of the Governor.1 See Post-1979 Appointment Letters, Attachment A. By comparison, appointments issued prior to the Reorganization Act referenced specific six-year terms. See, Pre-1979 Appointment Letters, Attachment B. This practical application demonstrates an interpretation of the law by the appointing Governors. In the construction of statutes, this practice is entitled to great deference. Griggs v. Duke Power Co. , 401 U.S. 424, 434-39, 91 S. Ct. 849, 28 L.Ed. 2d 158 (1971); Corey v. Avco-Lycoming Division, 163 Conn. 309,326, 307 A.2d 155 (1972) (Louiselle, J. concurring), cert. denied 409 U.S. 116, 93 S. Ct. 903, 34 L.Ed.2d 699 (1973). Where the time-tested interpretation is "reasonable", it should be accorded "great weight". Anderson v. Ludgin, 175 Conn. 545, 555-56, 400 A.2d 712 (1978) (citations omitted).

In conclusion, we believe that the provisions of the Liquor Control Act providing for staggered, six-year terms for Liquor Control Commissioners have been superseded by Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-9a(c) which provides for terms coterminous with the Governor, or until a successor is chosen, whichever is later.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RFV/ td


1 For the purposes of this opinion, it is unnecessary for us to resolve whether Commissioners may be removed at the pleasure of the Governor under Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-9a(d) or may only be removed for cause pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-12. Your question concerns term expiration only.


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