Attorney General: Honorable Theodore S. Sergi, Connecticut State Department of Education, 2001-022 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

October 15, 2001

Honorable Theodore S. Sergi
Connecticut State Department of Education
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 60106

Dear Commissioner Sergi:

You have inquired whether the provisions of Special Act No. 01-7 (S.A. 01-7), and in particular Section 5 of the Special Act, empower the Hartford School Building Committee, created by the Special Act, to hire a school construction or program manager of its choosing, without having to comply with the strictures and mandates of the Hartford City Charter and various municipal ordinances or regulations addressing the purchase of goods and professional services by the city.

As creations of the State, Connecticut municipalities hold only those powers expressly granted to them by the State. City of Norwich v. Housing Authority of the Town of Norwich, 216 Conn. 112, 123 (1990); City Council v. Hall, 180 Conn. 242, 248 (1980). Connecticut's Home Rule Act, codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-187 through 7-201, reflects the State's primary delegation of certain limited powers to Connecticut's municipalities. The Hartford City Charter and the Hartford municipal ordinances and regulations you have noted in your inquiry represent local legislation and rule making under the Home Rule Act.

Under Connecticut law, the rationale for the Home Rule Act is that issues of purely local concern are most logically addressed locally. Windham Taxpayers Ass'n. v. Board of Selectmen of the Town of Windham, 234 Conn. 513, 534-535 (1995); City of Norwich v. Housing Authority of the Town of Norwich, 216 Conn. 112, 119 (1990); Caulfield v. Noble, 178 Conn. 81, 86-87 (1979). However, where locally enacted charters or ordinances conflict with state laws addressing matters of statewide concern, the local charter or ordinances must yield. Adley Express Co. v. Town of Darien, 125 Conn. 501 (1939) (Town traffic ordinance is preempted by state law); Town of Colchester v. Reduction Associates. Inc., 34 Conn. Supp. 177 (1977) (Town ordinance on waste disposal is preempted by state law); Shelton v. City of Shelton, 111 Conn. 433, 435 (1930) ("Where the statute and ordinance deal with the same subject-matter, the statutory power will prevail, to the exclusion of the ordinance, so far as they conflict."); Kaluszka v. Town of East Hartford, 46 Conn. Supp. 588 (1999) (If the State has occupied the relevant field of regulation, or the local ordinance conflicts with State law, the local ordinance is preempted.)

Special Act 01-7, Section 1(a) incorporates the legislative findings that "the Hartford public school district is in a state of crisis and that the continued existence of this crisis is detrimental to the children of the city and in conflict with the educational interests of the state and the resolution of the crisis is a matter of paramount public interest ...." (Emphasis added).

Section 1(a) also establishes that the State Board of Trustees for the Hartford Public Schools, created by the S.A. 01-7's statutory predecessor, S.A. 97-4, is to be "responsible for the governance, management and fiscal operations of the Hartford school district ...." Section 1(b) of S.A. 01-7 further describes that the State Board of Trustees is receiving an extension of time for its management of the Hartford public schools in part to allow further implementation of "a long term building program based on the findings of the long-range facilities study ...."

Section 2(b) of S.A. 01-7 provides that management of the Hartford school district shall not revert to "a board of education that is determined in accordance with the charter of the city of Hartford" until December 6, 2005.

Finally, and most significantly for your inquiry, Section 5(a) of S.A. 01-7 mandates that "[a]ll school construction projects shall be managed by a school building committee," the composition of which is prescribed. Although the Special Act calls for the Hartford City Council to continue to pay the municipal costs of school construction projects, the Special Act expressly provides that "[t]he building committee may delegate management responsibilities to an external entity approved by the Commissioner of Education."1

As we understand it, the Hartford Charter provisions and ordinances at issue assign responsibility for the purchase of all non-educational goods and services to the city's purchasing agent, that a particular city ordinance empowers the purchasing agent to purchase professional services, and that certain city regulations would otherwise require competitive bidding for the services of a project or construction manager. In addition, there are other city ordinances that appear to conflict with the unfettered authority of the School Building Committee established under S.A. 01-7, Section 5.

The General Assembly has determined that the Hartford public schools are in a crisis that threatens the interests of the entire state. This crisis warrants not only the creation of the State Board of Trustees to function in lieu of a local board of education, but also the School Building Committee to manage all school construction projects. These legislative findings, and the clear statutory provision, require us to conclude that the express authority granted by the state legislature to the School Building Committee to hire a project or construction manager preempts any provisions of the Hartford City Charter. Also preempted are city ordinances or regulations which might inhibit the unfettered discretion of the Committee to retain a project or construction manager of its choice, in accordance with its own timetables.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Ralph E. Urban
Assistant Attorney General

RB/REU


1In reaching our conclusion, we are also mindful that the specific terms of legislative enactments prevail over more general terms of other enactments, and these basic canons of construction are applicable to both acts of the General Assembly and local enactments or ordinances. Institute of Living v. Town and City of Hartford, 133 Conn. 258 (1948); Danbury Rubber Co. v. Local No. 402, 20 Conn. Supp. 300, aff'd., 145 Conn. 53 (1957); Town of Manchester v. Manchester Police Union, 3 Conn. App. 1 (1984); Duplin v. Shiels, Inc., 165 Conn. 396 (1973).


Back to the 2001 Opinions Page
Back to Opinions Page



Content Last Modified on 6/6/2005 3:27:45 PM