Attorney General: Honorable Linda J. Yelmini, Department of Administrative Services, Formal Opinion 2006-014, Attorney General State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 28, 2006

The Honorable Linda J. Yelmini
Department of Administrative Services
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106-1658

Dear Commissioner Yelmini:

By request dated June 23, 2006, you have asked for my opinion as to whether Connecticut General Statutes § 4a-59a(b) allows the Department of Administrative Services (“DAS”) to extend contracts “up to or beyond one year, or . . . precisely one year[.]”  In my opinion, it would be reasonable for DAS to interpret this statute as allowing it to extend certain specified contracts for a period up to and including one year, but no longer than one year. 

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4a-59a(a) allows DAS to extend, for a maximum of two times, contracts that ordinarily would be subject to the competitive procurement requirements of Title 4a, provided that the DAS Commissioner makes certain written determinations and solicits at least four competitive quotations, including one from the existing vendor.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4a-59a(b) establishes an exception to this restriction and provides that:

 Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) . . . , the Commissioners of Administrative Services and Public Works may, for a period of one year from the date such contract would otherwise expire, extend any contract in effect on May 1, 2005, with a value of fifty thousand dollars or more per year, to perform any of the following services for the state: Janitorial, building maintenance, security and food and beverage.  (emphasis added).

The subject of your request is the meaning of the phrase “for a period of one year” in subsection (b). 

In interpreting statutes we are obliged to observe certain principles. Pursuant to  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-2z, we first look to the plain meaning of a statute.   If its terms are unambiguous, and don’t result in absurd or unworkable consequences, we need not look any further.  The statute provides:

 

The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes.  If, after examining such text and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extratextual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered.

 

Common sense may be used in construing laws.  Trumbull v. State, 206 Conn. 65, 80, 537 A.2d 431 (1988).  "It is an elementary rule of construction that statutes should be considered as a whole, with a view toward reconciling their separate parts in order to render a reasonable overall interpretation; the application, moreover, of common sense to the statutory language is not to be excluded. United Aircraft Corporation v. Fusari, 163 Conn. 401, 411, 311 A.2d 65 (1972); Garbaty v. Norwalk Jewish Center, Inc., 148 Conn. 376, 382, 171 A.2d 197 (1961). We must avoid a consequence that fails to attain a rational and sensible result which bears most directly on the object which the legislature sought to obtain.  United Aircraft Corporation v. Fusari, supra, 414; Bridgeport v. Stratford, 142 Conn. 634, 644, 116 A.2d 508 (1955); Sage-Allen Co. v. Wheeler, 119 Conn. 667, 679, 179 A. 195 (1935).Dukes v. Durante, 192 Conn. 207, 214-15; 471 A.2d 1368 (1984), citing  La Providenza v. State Employees' Retirement Commission, 178 Conn. 23, 29, 420 A.2d 905 (1979).

 

Your request suggests that the meaning of the phrase “for a period of one year” in §4a-59a(b) is not “plain and unambiguous,” as Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-2z provides.  The phrase may simply mean that DAS may extend contracts for any period up to and including one year.  It could also mean that DAS may extend contracts only for a period of exactly one year.  The legislative history of §4a-59a(b) is silent as to the meaning of the phrase. Accordingly, it is appropriate to employ other recognized interpretive tools, such as policy, existing legislation and common sense, to seek a rational and sensible result when construing the phrase. 

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4a-59a limits the ability of DAS to continue extending the same contract repeatedly, thereby ensuring compliance with the statutory mandate of competitive procurement.  In enacting subsection (b), the General Assembly waived the two extension rule of subsection (a) in very limited fashion by authorizing one more extension “for a period of one year” in the case of  four specified essential service contracts, namely, “[j]anitorial, building maintenance, security and food and beverage” contracts. 

 

It appears that the General Assembly recognized the practical circumstance that the transition from one contractor to another in these basic and essential services might transcend the term already extended under Subsection (a).  In light of this apparent purpose, it would be reasonable for DAS to interpret  “for a period of one year” to mean the time needed to complete the competitive contracting process, but only for the limited period necessary to accomplish this and in no event more than one year.  The State rarely needs a full year after a contract expires to award a new contract through the competitive procurement process.  Often the competitive procurement process is complete prior to the expiration of the existing contract.  Sometimes the process is not complete prior to that date, in which case the State may only need a few days, weeks or months before awarding and transitioning to the new contract.  It would be rational and sensible for the General Assembly to permit contract extensions for only such limited time as is necessary to comply fully, effectively and fairly with the competitive procurement process rather than for it to mandate strictly a 365 day extension for the same purpose, when a lesser period would be sufficient. 

 

Subsection (b), when construed together with subsection (a) and DAS’s other procurement statutes, would permit DAS to extend the specified essential service contracts for such time as needed, up to but not more than one year from the date such contracts would have expired.  Since the legislative history of subsection (b) does not provide DAS with interpretive guidance, and since DAS does have broad latitude in interpreting its own statutes, such interpretation is reasonable and consistent with its own procedural and procurement mandates and objectives as well as common sense. 

I trust this letter provides you with the answers to your questions.  If you need further information, please contact me.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL


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