Attorney General: Honorable Marc S. Ryan, Secretary, Office of Policy and Management, 2002-009 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

March 15, 2002

Honorable Marc S. Ryan
Secretary, Office of Policy and Management
450 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106-1308

Dear Mr. Ryan:

This letter is in response to your request, on behalf of the Waterbury Financial Planning and Assistance Board ("WFPAB"), for a formal legal opinion on three questions concerning the appointment of a 2002 Charter Revision Commission for the City of Waterbury.

We understand from your letter that on February 11, 2002, the Board of Aldermen for the City of Waterbury (the "Board") adopted a resolution pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190 appointing nine electors to serve as the 2002 Charter Revision Commission. The resolution further provided that, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190(c), the Commission "shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its ‘Final Report’ by this Board of Alderman, in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut." Thereafter, at some time between February 11, 2002 and March 4, 2002, the Board voted to rescind its previous vote of February 11, 2002, which established the February 11, 2002 Commission. The Board then proceeded, on March 4, 2002, by a vote of 13-1, to adopt a resolution establishing a new 2002 Charter Revision Commission consisting of fifteen electors. Like the prior resolution, the March 4, 2002, resolution provided that the Commission “shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its ‘Final Report’ by this Board of Aldermen, in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut."

Due to concerns about the legality of this process, and the negative impact that the uncertain legal status of the March 4, 2002 Commission could have on any actions, including the issuance of bonds or notes, that the City might take under a revised Charter, you have asked us to address the following three questions:

  1. Whether a February 11, 2002, resolution of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Waterbury establishing a 2002 Charter Revision Commission of nine (9) members (the "February 11, 2002 Commission") lawfully created and constituted such Commission in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-187 et. seq.?
  2. Whether a March 4, 2002, resolution of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Waterbury establishing a 2002 Charter Revision Commission of fifteen (15) members (the "March 4, 2002 Commission") lawfully created and constituted such commission in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-187 et. seq., or could otherwise be deemed to have had the effect of lawfully reconstituting the February 11, 2002 Commission?
  3. If the March 4, 2002 Commission is determined by the Attorney General to have been established without color of law under the Connecticut General Statutes, does the WFPAB, pursuant to the oversight and management control powers conferred upon it by Special Act 01-0, including but not limited to [Section] 11(b)(6) of such Act, have the power or authority to unilaterally terminate the activities of the March 4, 2002 Commission? If not, how should the WFPAB proceed to invalidate the establishment of the March 4, 2002 Commission?

For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that: (1) the February 11, 2002 Commission was lawfully established; (2) the March 4, 2002 Commission was not lawfully established; and (3) given our answers to questions one and two, it is unnecessary to reach the issue of the WFPAB's authority to take any action at this time.

With regard to your first question, we conclude that the February 11, 2002 Commission was lawfully established. The governing statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190, provides, in pertinent part, that:

(a) Within thirty days after such action [to revise the Charter] has been initiated by vote of the appointing authority or by certification of a petition, the appointing authority shall by resolution appoint a commission consisting of not fewer than five nor more than fifteen electors, not more than one-third of whom may hold any other public office in the municipality and not more than a bare majority of whom shall be members of any one political party, which commission shall proceed forthwith to draft a charter, or amendments to the existing charter, or amendments to the home rule ordinance, as the case may be.

(b) . . . .The appointing authority shall specify by resolution when the commission shall submit its draft report, which shall not be later than sixteen months from the date of its appointment.

(c) The commission shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its final report by the appointing authority.

An examination of the Board’s February 11, 2002 resolution reveals that it fully complies with the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190. In particular, the resolution states that its purpose is to initiate the statutory process authorized in Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 7-188 through 7-193, inclusive, for revising the Charter of the City of Waterbury. The resolution meets the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190(a) concerning the membership of the Commission in that it appoints nine electors, specifies that "not more than one third (1/3) of [the nine appointees] may hold any other public office in the City of Waterbury," and indicates that four of the appointees are Democrats, four are Republicans and one is an Independent.

The resolution meets the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190(b) by designating May 31, 2002, as the date by which the Commission must submit its draft report to the Board. As required by § 7-190(b), the designated date is not later than sixteen months from the date of the Commission’s February 11, 2002, appointment.

Finally, the February 11, 2002, resolution complies with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190(c) by stating that the Commission shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its final report by the Board of Aldermen. Given the fact that the resolution satisfies all of the statutory requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190 and was passed, according to the resolution, by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the Board, as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-188(b), we conclude that the February 11, 2002 Commission was lawfully created.

In your second question, you ask whether the Board’s subsequent resolution on March 4, 2002, to create a fifteen member 2002 Charter Revision Commission, after having voted to rescind the February 11, 2002 resolution, lawfully created a new or reconstituted Commission. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to determine whether the legislature intended, in enacting the statutes that govern the charter revision process, to prohibit an appointing authority from abolishing an existing Commission prior to that Commission’s submission of its final report.

"In seeking to discern th[e legislative] intent, [the court] look[s] 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." Frillici v. Town of Westport, 231 Conn. 418, 431 (1994). In the present case, there are two statutory provisions that are particularly relevant. First, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-188(d) states that:

After a resolution has been . . . adopted by the appointing authority . . . , the appointing authority shall not adopt any resolution initiating such action [to revise the charter] . . . until such time as the commission appointed pursuant to such original resolution or petition has been terminated.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-188(d)(emphasis added). The second relevant statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-190 (c), states that "[t]he commission shall terminate upon acceptance or rejection of its final report."(Emphasis added) Reading the two statutes together, as we must, in order to create a consistent body of law, Butler v. Hartford Technical Institute, Inc., 243 Conn. 454, 461 (1997), we conclude that the legislature did not intend to permit an appointing body to appoint more than one commission at a time or to appoint a second commission before the first commission has completed its mission by filing its final report.

This conclusion is supported by the legislative history of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 7-188(d) and 7-190(c). Although both provisions were adopted without specific comment in 1981 by 1981 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 81-451, the former provision was amended in 1984 to make clear that it applied not only to revisions initiated by petition, but also to revisions initiated, as in the present case, by resolution.1 See 1984 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 84-153. At the time of the 1984 amendment, Senator Smith explained the legislature’s intent:

The bill would prohibit a municipality from having more than one municipal charter, charter revision or home rule ordinance revision commission at one time. Once the appointing authority had adopted a resolution beginning the adoption or revision process or the clerk had accepted a petition for the initiation of a process, no subsequent resolution could be adopted or petition accepted until the Commissioner’s [sic] final report was adopted or rejected by the appointing authority.

27 Conn. S. Proc., pt. 3, 1984 Sess. 55 (April 10, 1984)(remarks of Sen. Smith)(emphasis added). As Senator Smith’s comments make clear, the intent of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 7-188(d) and 7-190(c) was to prohibit an appointing authority not only from appointing two commissions at once, but also from appointing a second commission before the first commission had submitted its final report. Accordingly, we conclude that the Board’s March 4, 2002, resolution was in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 7-188(d) and 7-190(c), and therefore invalid, because it appointed a second commission without allowing the February 11, 2002 Commission to submit its final report. Accordingly, the February 11, 2002 Commission remains in existence, notwithstanding the Board’s efforts to rescind the resolution establishing it, and may legally proceed with its charge to recommend revisions to the charter for the City of Waterbury.

In your final question, you ask whether the WFPAB has the authority to take action to terminate the March 4, 2002 Commission. In view of the clarity of the statutory scheme as discussed above, we assume that no further action will be necessary to terminate the invalidly established March 4, 2002 Commission, and that this question need not be answered at this time. If you believe that it is necessary for us to examine this question further, please let me know.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Jane R. Rosenberg
Assistant Attorney General

RB/jrr


1Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-188(b) sets forth two procedures for initiating the process of revising a municipal charter. The first method, which was utilized in this case, is by resolution adopted by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership of the appointing authority of the municipality. The second method is by a petition signed by not less than ten percent of the electors of the municipality, which must be filed with the municipal clerk for submission to the appointing authority.


Back to the 2002 Opinions Page
Back to Opinions Page



Content Last Modified on 6/6/2005 3:18:30 PM