Attorney General: Department of Administrative Services, State Representative, 1993-017 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 29, 1993

Hon. Edward C. Krawiecki, Jr.
State Representative
Minority Leader
House of Representatives
State Capitol
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Representative Krawiecki:

Conn.Gen.Stat. 4b-3 establishes the state properties review board and provides criteria for membership. That statute provides, inter alia, that "[n]o person shall serve on this board who holds another state or municipal governmental position...." Conn.Gen.Stat. 4b-3(b). By letter dated March 23, 1993 you have asked two questions concerning the above quoted portion of Conn.Gen.Stat. 4b-3(b).

1. You initially ask whether "there is a definition of 'state or municipal government position' which applies to [ 4b-3(b) ]?" We answer this question in the affirmative.

The statutes relating to the state properties review board do not define the phrase "state or municipal governmental position" utilized in 4b-3(b). Our Supreme Court, however, has stated:

"In construing any statute, we seek to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature." United Illuminating Co. v. Groppo, 220 Conn. 749, 755, 601 A.2d 1005 (1992). "[T]o discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter." Texaco Refining & Marketing Co. v. Commissioner, 202 Conn. 583, 589, 522 A.2d 771 (1987).

"Where a statute ... does not define a term, it is appropriate to focus upon its common understanding as expressed in the law and upon its dictionary meaning." Ziperstein v. Tax Commissioner, 178 Conn. 493, 500, 423 A.2d 129 (1979).

AirKaman, Inc. v. Groppo, 221 Conn. 751, 756-757 (1992).

The term "position" has been construed to hold various meanings depending upon the context used. See, e.g. Brown v. Boyd, 91 P.2d 926, 930 (Cal.App.1939) ("We will not quibble over the use of the word position instead of office, because here there is no distinction. The word position was used in the section to embrace both officers and employees."); People v. Van Wyck, 52 N.E. 559, 561 (N.Y.1899):

Thus referring to the title, and according to it its proper weight, we readily perceive that the word "position," in the connection in which it is used, is intended to embrace all subordinate places in the public service, and that the statute is limited in its operations to those engaged in the public employment, as that term is ordinarily used, which does not include the more important municipal offices.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1965) defines "position" to include an "office, employment or vocation." Conn.Gen.Stat. 4b-3(b) does not contain any language which excludes or limits this commonly understood meaning. "In the construction of the statutes, words and phrases shall be construed according to the commonly approved usage of the language...." General Statutes  1-1(a).

We conclude the statutory definition includes any state or municipal office, employment or vocation. Our conclusion is supported by the commonly approved usage of the language as well as legislative history surrounding the creation of the properties review board. The properties review board was established by the 1975 legislature. It came into being as the result of a bipartisan legislative committee's report on a "monstrous" problem with the leasing of real property by the state executive branch. See Joint Committee Hearing on Leasing, May 1, 1975, Remarks of Rep. Dice at 12.

While the specific phrase you cite is not addressed in the legislative history, the committee hearing shows that the phrase "another state or municipal governmental position" was to have a wide sweep. Robert A. Weinerman, Commissioner of Public Works, characterized the proposed state properties review board as "an independent board that would be independent of the Governor, independent of the executive branch, independent of the legislature...." May 1, 1975, hearing, at 7.

The statutory definition has a broad all-encompassing meaning. The intent was to create an independent "watch dog" agency which would have no possible conflicts of interest, to insure clean and honest transactions in real property by the State of Connecticut.

2. Your second question is whether an individual who serves without compensation on a municipal board is ineligible for membership on the state properties review board. We answer that, a person serving without compensation on a municipal board would hold "another ... municipal governmental position."

There is nothing in Conn.Gen.Stat. 4b-3b indicating a legislative intent to permit a person who holds another state or municipal governmental position to be a member of the properties review board so long as that person receives no compensation for the state or municipal position. Rather, the express statutory language speaks of "another state or municipal governmental position" without any limitation.

If the legislature had wished an uncompensated municipal board member to be eligible for membership on the state properties review board, it could have accomplished this result by adding the appropriate language. It is not what the legislature might say, but what it did say that is controlling. All Brand Imports, Inc. v. Dep't of Liquor Control, 213 Conn. 184, 195 (1989). We cannot by legislative construction add words to a statute that do not exist. Kilpatrick v. Board of Education, 206 Conn. 25, 28 (1988). Accordingly under the clear language of the statute, an individual serving without compensation on a municipal board is ineligible for membership on the state properties review board.1

We trust this answers the questions posed.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General

Henry S. Cohn
Assistant Attorney General

RB/HSC/js


1 We note that statutes providing immunities for state and municipal employees extend to every position whether they serve with or without remuneration. See Conn.Gen.Stat. 4-141; 7-101a(a).


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