Attorney General: Honorable Nicholas Cioffi, Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 1998-011 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

July 16, 1998

Honorable Nicholas Cioffi
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities
21 Grand Street
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioner:

This is in response to your request for an opinion concerning the term of office of the Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (Commission). You ask specifically when the term of office of Louis Martin, who was appointed executive director in 1994, expires, and whether he may hold over after the expiration of his term until a successor is appointed. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that Mr. Martin's term expired at the end of July 14, 1998, and he cannot hold over in office beyond that date.

The statute that governs the term of office for the Executive Director is Conn. Gen. Stat.  46a-52(c). At the time of Mr. Martin's appointment to his second term in 1994, this statute specifically established terms of office for the Executive Director expiring on July 14, 1990 and each four years thereafter, and provided that the Executive Director "shall serve for a term of four years." Conn. Gen. Stat.  46a-52(c) (Rev. to 1993). The plain language of this statute imposed a specific temporal limitation on the Executive Director's term of office, and did not provide for him to hold over after the expiration of that term. This express limitation is in contrast to other statutes, such as Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-142a, which provides for the appointment of the Claims Commissioner "for a term of four years from the first day in July in the year of his appointment and until his successor has been appointed and has qualified." (Emphasis added). The legislature's decision to provide an express limitation of the executive director's term with no statutory provision for a holdover, read in the face of other statutes providing for holdovers, evinces a legislative intent to limit the term to the date provided, without a holdover. See Plourde v. Liburdi, 207 Conn. 412, 416 (1988).

Effective July 1, 1998, the legislature has amended Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-52(c) to provide:

Upon the expiration of such term and thereafter, the executive director shall be appointed for a term of four years. The executive director shall be supervised and annually evaluated by the commission. The executive director shall serve at the pleasure of the commission but no longer than four years from July 15 in the year of his or her appointment unless reappointed pursuant to the provisions of this subsection.

Public Act 98-245 Section 12 (emphasis added).

The effect of this amendment is that, although the the term of the Executive Director may be shortened by the Commission, it may not be extended, by holdover or any other means, unless he is reappointed. Since Mr. Martin was appointed in 1994 and has not been reappointed by the Commission, his term expired on July 14, 1998 and cannot be extended beyond that date. He therefore cannot hold over under the statute as amended.

This analysis is not affected by the general provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-1 or 4-1a. Section 4-1 allows a public official who is appointed for a term by the Governor or General Assembly to hold over "until his successor is appointed and has qualified." This statute does not apply here because the Executive Director is not appointed by the Governor or General Assembly. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-52(c), providing that the Commission, not the Governor, shall appoint an executive director. Conn. Gen. Stat.  4-1a, which permits public officials serving "at the pleasure of the person or body authorized to make the appointment" to hold over under certain circumstances "[u]nless otherwise provided by law," similarly does not apply here for several reasons. First, the term of the Executive Director is "otherwise provided by law" in Conn. Gen. Stat.  46a-52(c), which, as noted above, provides for a specific term ending on July 14, 1998 and has never provided for a holdover. It is well established that a specific statute that governs a particular situation must prevail over a more general statute on the subject. Lamberti v. City of Stamford, 131 Conn. 396, 400-01 (1944).

Second, since at the time of Mr. Martin's appointment in 1994, Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-52(c) provided for a specific term for executive director, he did not "serve at the pleasure of" the appointing authority and so his position did not fall within the ambit of 4-1a. While under P.A. No. 98-245, effective July 1, 1998, the executive director now serves at the pleasure of the Commission, in that same provision the legislature even more emphatically provided that an executive director's term could extend beyond four years only if he is reappointed, as the revised statute now limits the term to "no longer than four years from July 15 in the year of his or her appointment unless reappointed pursuant to the provisions of this subsection." Thus, even if P.A. No. 98-245 were construed to apply to Mr. Martin, the specificity of this provision clearly "otherwise provides" that no holdover is permitted absent reappointment, and supersedes the general holdover provision of Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-1a.

We need not address whether the 1998 amendment applies to Mr. Martin's term as executive director since, for all the reasons discussed, even if he is considered to serve at the pleasure of the Commission, he does not fit within the provisions of 4-1a providing for a holdover because of the specific application of 46a-52(c), both before and after its amendment by P.A. 98-245. Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, we conclude that Conn. Gen. Stat.  46a-52(c) governs in this instance, and both the old and new versions of that statute preclude the holdover of the Executive Director after the expiration of his term on July 14, 1998.

I trust that this answers your inquiry.

Sincerely,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Carolyn K. Querijero
Assistant Attorney General

RB/DMT/tb


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