Attorney General: Jeanne Milstein, Child Advocate, Office of the Child Advocate, Formal Opinion 2009-003, Attorney General State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 22, 2009

 

Jeanne Milstein

Child Advocate, Office of the Child Advocate

999 Asylum Avenue, First Floor

Hartford, CT  06105

 

Dear Ms. Milstein:

 

You have requested an opinion concerning the operation of the Family Support Council (the “Council”).  Specifically, you have asked whether the Council’s enabling statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-219c, prohibits you from delegating your voting authority to a member of your staff.  We conclude that section 17a-219c does not prohibit such a delegation.

Section 17a-219c provides in relevant part: “The council shall consist of twenty-seven voting members including the Commissioners of Public Health, Developmental Services, Children and Families, Education and Social Services, or their designees, the Child Advocate, the executive director of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, the chairperson of the State Interagency Birth-to-Three Coordinating Council . . . the executive director of the Commission on Children, and family members of, or individuals who advocate for, children with disabilities.”  (Emphasis added.)  This statute, standing alone, could suggest that, by explicitly permitting certain persons to designate a representative to vote at Council meetings, the Legislature intended not to authorize other voting members to select designees to represent them on the Council.  See State v. Perez, 78 Conn. App. 610, 642 (2003).

Section 17a-219c does not stand alone, however.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-13k specifically authorizes you to appoint staff to assist you in your duties.  In particular, section 46a-13k provides that “[t]he duties of the staff may include the duties and powers of the Child Advocate if performed under the direction of the Child Advocate.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-13k(d) (emphasis added). 

Courts have instructed that statutes must be read, if at all possible, so as to “create a harmonious body of law.”  State v. John F.M., 285 Conn. 528, 549 (2008).  Additionally, “the General Assembly is always presumed to know all the existing statutes and the effect that its action or non-action will have upon any one of them. . . .” AvalonBay Cmtys., Inc. v. Zoning Comm'n, 280 Conn. 405, 417 (2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). 

The Council was created in June, 1994, while the Office of the Child Advocate was not established until 1995.  Thus the Child Advocate was not one of the Council’s original voting members.  In 1998, when the Legislature amended section 17a-219c(a) to add the Child Advocate to the list of voting members, it was presumed to have been aware of the Child Advocate’s authority to designate staff members to perform certain of her duties.  See Bd. of Educ. v. State Bd. of Educ., 278 Conn. 326, 333 (2006).  Therefore, had the Legislature intended that, notwithstanding the provision of section 46a-13k, only the Child Advocate could vote at Council meetings, it would have so stated.  Genesky v. East Lyme, 275 Conn. 246, 258 (2005).

Given the express language of section 46a-13k and the Legislature’s presumed awareness of this language when it amended section 17a-219c to add the Child Advocate to the Council, we conclude that the Legislature did not intend to bar the Child Advocate from designating a staff member to vote at Council meetings.  Consequently, consistent with section 46a-13k, you may designate a member of your staff to attend and cast your vote at Council meetings.

I trust that this letter responds to your concerns.

Very truly yours,

 

 

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL


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Content Last Modified on 6/22/2009 11:22:51 AM