Attorney General: Honorable Robert M. Ward, Legislative Office Building, Rm. 4200, 1995-033 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

November 22, 1995

Honorable Robert M. Ward
House Minority Leader
Legislative Office Building, Rm. 4200
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Representative Ward:

You have written to this office seeking an opinion on the eligibility of a trustee to vote at a school district meeting. In your letter you relate that the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-6 apply to this voters' meeting, which is a type of referendum as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-1(n)(2). Section 7-6 permits "any citizen" to vote who is 18 or older and who is "liable" to the town or district on property assessed at one thousand dollars or more.1 You further relate that a property owner, now the trustee, had an assessment in a town which exceeded one thousand dollars, that the property was formerly owned in her own name, independent of a trust, and that the owner is a non-resident of the town. The property is now held in trust. The property is listed on the town grand list as "Doe Family Trust, Jane Doe, trustee."

Prior to the property being put in trust, the property owner voted in district meetings under 7-6. Since the creation of the trust, the town clerk has advised that the property owner is ineligible to vote. You ask: "Does 7-6 allow the trustee to legally vote at meetings of the school district?"

The answer to your question begins with the wording of the statute. River Dock and Pile, Inc. v. O & G Industries, Inc., 219 Conn. 787, 805 (1991). To vote, the trustee must, under 7-6, be "liable" to the municipality for taxes assessed against the trust. Further a trustee must be considered a "citizen" for the purposes of 7-6.

It is further noted that, unlike 7-6, 7-339p(c), which you refer to in your letter statutorily authorizes corporations and trusts to take part in similar voters' meetings. However, 7-6 is specifically limited to citizens, which may be indicative of a legislative intent to exclude other entities. See Barlow v. Kaminsky, 144 Conn. 612, 620 (1957)(general rule of statutory construction that inclusion of one specific term implies exclusion of other terms).

Unfortunately we cannot resolve these issues with any finality as we are not in a position to advise on interpretations of 7-6 as it impacts on local taxation. As 7-6 falls under the Town and Other Community Meetings chapter of the statutes, your question is one reserved for the municipal attorney. See Ops. Conn. Atty. Gen. April 20, 1972; November 2, 1972; August 22, 1974; September 3, 1974; December 15, 1988; February 9, 1995 ("Since the process is local in nature, legal guidance on this matter should, more appropriately be sought by interested taxpayers from their town attorney.") The town attorney must review the applicable tax codes, town charter and case law to provide answers to the sub-issues raised above.

In 1986 we advised, in response to a similar question: "With respect to participation by non-residents at other referenda as defined in 9-1n(2) we recommend, because of the variety of possible answers, that interested parties consult their municipal attorney." We pointed out that "[u]nder this section numerous referendum issues may be presented, with no set answer regarding whether non-resident taxpayers may participate. Specific general statutes, special acts, or charter provisions must be consulted to resolve eligibility." (citing Walton v. Burdick, 184 Conn. 200 (1981)). Op. Conn. Atty. Gen., December 1, 1986. A copy is attached hereto.

We hope this information has been helpful.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Henry S. Cohn
Assistant Attorney General

RB/HSC/as

Enclosures


1 Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-6 provides as follows:

At any town meeting other than a regular or special town election or at any meeting of any fire, sewer or school district or any other municipal subdivision of any town incorporated by any special act, any person who is an elector of such town may vote and any citizen of the age of eighteen years or more who, jointly or severally, is liable to the town, district or subdivision for taxes assessed against him on an assessment of not less than one thousand dollars on the last-completed grand list of such town, district or subdivision, or who would be so liable if not entitled to an exemption under subdivision (17), (19), (22), (23), (25) or (26) of section 12-81, may vote, unless restricted by the provisions of any special act relating to such town, district or subdivision. (emphasis added).


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