Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 27, 1993
Honorable Reginald J. Smith
Department of Public Utility Control
One Central Park Plaza
New Britain, CT 06051
Dear Mr. Smith:
This is in reply to a request for advice asking if the person you appoint as an Executive Director of the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC), pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-2(f), to fill a vacancy in that position receives an appointment for four years or rather serves the balance of the prior Executive Director's unexpired term. The answer to your question is that the appointee is entitled to serve for four years from the date of that person's appointment.
According to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-2(f), the Executive Director is appointed by the Chairperson, with the consent of two or more Commissioners, to serve a term of four years. The statutes are silent concerning vacancies created before the expiration of the four-year period. Likewise no statute specifies when the term begins. With no further direction from the General Statutes, one can only conclude that a new term begins at the time of appointment. "'[It] is only when the law does not fix the commencement of the term it begins to run from the date of appointment,' Brown, States Attorney ex rel. Grey v. Quintilian, 121 Conn. 300, 306, 184 A. 382 (1936). The commencement of the term of public office may be fixed by the constitution or statute of a state. Where no time is fixed by law for the commencement of an official term, the general rule is that the term begins to run from the date of appointment...' 63A Am. Jur. 2d, Public Officers and Employees Sec. 160, pp. 786-87.'" Marsala v. Bridgeport, 15 Conn. App. 323, 325-26 (1988). That a new term begins by appointment must have been the legislature's intent, since it did not articulate a vacancy procedure for the Executive Director, even though it established a detailed procedure for filling vacancies of the DPUC commissioners (see Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-3). For example, the legislature explicitly states that a commissioner's vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term of the existing commissioner when the vacancy is created during a legislative session. If the vacancy occurs when the legislature is not in session then the Governor makes a temporary appointment until the legislature returns. It is obvious, too, that the legislature sought to provide administrative continuity in a position which is referred to as the "chief administrative officer" since the chair only serves for a one-year term. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-2(b)). The legislative intent here is "clear and unambiguous" and where the statute speaks for itself, there is no occasion to further construe it. State ex rel. Landry v. Personnel Appeals Board, 138 Conn. 445, 447, 86 A.2d 70 (1952); State ex rel. Cooley v. Kegley, 143 Conn. 679, 683, 124 A.2d 898 (1956); Wilson v. West Haven, 142 Conn. 646, 654, 116 A.2d 420 (1955).
Moreover, when the previous Executive Director resigned the office, in effect, the office reverted back to the appointing authority. 67 C.J.S. § 79 at 395; Marvel v. Camden County, 137 N.J.L. 47, 57 A.2d 455 (1948).1 Therefore, the appointing authority is able to invest its appointee with a full four-year term.
Very truly yours,
Robert S. Golden, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
1 When merely the length of the term is fixed, without reference to an unexpired term, or to a vacancy in the term of office, as distinguished from a vacancy in the office itself, it is held in some cases that on the happening of a vacancy, the office reverts to the people or sovereign, and when again vested it is not for the unexpired term, but for the full term. 67 C.J.S. e 79.