Attorney General: Leo Belval, Appeal Panel Chairman, Codes and Standards Committee, 2005-032, Formal Opinion, Attorney General, State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

December 6, 2005

Leo Belval, Appeal Panel Chairman
Codes and Standards Committee
Department of Public Safety
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, Connecticut 06457

Dear Chairman Belval:

You have requested our advice regarding the scope of the State Building Inspector’s authority over local building officials. Specifically, you have asked whether section 29-252(d) of the Connecticut General Statutes merely gives the State Building Inspector the authority to issue interpretations as part of the process of implementing the State Building Code, or, instead, gives the State Building Inspector the authority to review the actions of a local building official in specific situations, make factual determinations and order the local official to take appropriate action based on those determinations. You advised us that it has long been the practice of the “State Building Inspector to act on complaints regarding the actions of a local building official by reviewing the complaint, inspecting the subject premises, interviewing appropriate persons including the local official, interpreting the code as applied and then issuing appropriate orders.”

 

The State Building Inspector, as a principal author of the State Building Code,1 may issue official interpretations of the Code or its particular provisions upon the request of any person.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252(c)2.  As discussed below, it is our opinion that the State Building Inspector also has the clear statutory authority to review the actions of a local building official to determine whether the local building official has misconstrued or misinterpreted the State Building Code and, if so, issue any orders the State Building Inspector deems to be appropriate.

 

The State Building Inspector’s authority over the administration of the State Building Code and local building officials is specifically set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. §  29-252(d) as follows:

 

The State Building Inspector or his designee shall review a decision by a local building official or board of appeals appointed pursuant to section 29-266 when he has reason to believe that such official or board has misconstrued or misinterpreted any provision of the State Building Code.  If upon review and after consultation with such official or board he determines that a provision of the code has been misconstrued or misinterpreted, he shall issue an interpretation of said code and may issue any order he deems appropriate. 

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252(d).  See also Edelstein v. Shansky, 2002 Conn. Super. Lexis 573 (2002).

 

The plain language of this section gives the State Building Inspector authority to review any decision made by a local building official construing the State Building Code on a particular project to determine whether the local building official has misconstrued or misinterpreted the State Building Code as it relates to that project and, if so, issue "any orders he deems appropriate."

 

In construing statutes, courts must ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature.  State v. Champagne, 206 Conn. 421, 428 (1988); In Re Sheldon G., 216 Conn. 563, 568 (1990).  "To discern the intent of the legislature, we look first to the words of the statute.” In Re Sheldon G., 216 Conn. at 568. The legislative history of Conn. Gen. Stat. §  29-252(d) supports the plain and unambiguous language of that statute.

 

The provisions of subsection (d)  were added to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252 upon the recommendation of the Governor’s Building and Construction Advisory Committee following the building collapse at L’Ambiance Plaza in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on April 23, 1987.   Public Act 88-359 implemented the committee’s recommendations.   Floor debates and testimony before a legislative committee shed some light on the scope of the review the State Building Inspector was expected to conduct.

 

Senator Marie Herbst explained the purpose for subsection (d) in the following manner:  “It grants the State Building Inspector the authority to make official interpretations of the State Building Code, monitor code enforcement on the local level and to overrule local officials on the interpretations of the code through proper procedures.”  Conn. Sen. Proc., Vol. 31, Part 10, 1988 Sess., p. 3331 (May 3, 1988)

 

It is clear from the legislative history that, in enacting the language of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252(d), the legislature intended to expand the authority of the State Building Inspector to review interpretations of the State Building Code made by local building officials, and issue any orders the State Building Inspector deems appropriate when he determines that the local building official has misconstrued or misinterpreted the code.

 

Accordingly, it is our opinion that the State Building Inspector may review the actions of a local building official in a specific situation to determine whether the local building official has misconstrued or misinterpreted the State Building Code as it relates to the specific situation and, if so, issue any orders the State Building Inspector deems appropriate.

 

Very Truly Yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Henri Alexandre
Assistant Attorney General



1 "The State Building Inspector and the Codes and Standards Committee shall, jointly, with the approval of the Commissioner of Public Safety, adopt and administer a State Building Code based on a nationally recognized model building code for the purpose of regulating the design, construction and use of buildings or structures to be erected and the alteration of buildings or structures already erected and make such amendments thereto as they, from time to time, deem necessary or desirable."  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252(a).

 

2 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-252(c) provides: "The State Building Inspector or his designee may issue official interpretations of the State Building Code, including interpretations of the applicability of any provision of the code, upon the request of any person.  The State Building Inspector shall compile and index each interpretation and shall publish such interpretations at periodic intervals not exceeding four months."


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