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Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

December 11, 2003

Susan G. Townsley
Executive Director
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Ms. Townsley:

This is in response to your request for opinion on whether municipalities that have voted to allow bazaars and raffles, but that have no chief of police or first selectman to investigate applications and issue permits as required by the Bazaar and Raffle Act, nevertheless may permit qualifying organizations to conduct bazaars and raffles. For the following reasons, our answer is affirmative.

The Bazaar and Raffle Act, at Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 7-170 et seq., allows bazaars and raffles to be conducted by qualified organizations in municipalities which have voted to permit the activity. Municipalities may authorize the activity either by ordinance or by vote of electors at a special meeting of said electors upon petition to the "chief executive authority." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-1711 . Once allowed locally, applications for permits are made to the chief of police, or, if there is no police department, to the first selectman. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-173. Permits may be granted by the “chief of police or first selectman” of the municipality, as the case may be, following application to, and investigation by, that official to determine if the qualifications have been met, subject to the approval of the executive director of the Division of Special Revenue. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-174.2

Your instant question concerns the fact that although all but one town in the state have voted to allow bazaars and raffles, not all towns in the state have a chief of police or a first selectman. The statute is silent as to outcome in this circumstance. Consequently, we must resort to the rules of statutory construction. In re Valerie D., 223 Conn. 492, 512-13, 613 A.2d 748 (1992).

Our approach to this issue is guided by well established principles. "[O]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature … in seeking to discern that intent, we look 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 the relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same subject matter." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Herbert S. Newman & Partners v. CFC Construction Ltd. Partnership, 236 Conn. 750, 755-56, 674 A.2d 1313 (1996). Furthermore, it is an "elementary rule of statutory construction that we must read the legislative scheme as a whole in order to give effect to and harmonize all of the parts." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Light & Power Co. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 216 Conn. 627, 636, 583 A.2d 906 (1990). Because the legislature is presumed to have created a harmonious and consistent body of work, we read statutes together when they relate to the same subject matter. Hammond v. Commissioner of Correction, 259 Conn. 855, 875-76, 792 A.2d 774 (2002) citing Derwin v. State Employees Retirement Commission, 234 Conn. 411, 420 661 A.2d 1025 (1995).

The fact that the statute provides that the investigation and permit issuing activity "shall" be conducted by the chief of police or first selectman does not necessarily disenfranchise towns that have neither office. Where, as here, the legislation is phrased in affirmative language unaccompanied by negative words, it is often held to be directory rather than mandatory. See, e.g., Winslow v. Zoning Board, 143 Conn. 381, 387-88, 122 A.2d 789 (1956).

A study of the language of the Act, and the circumstances surrounding its enactment and subsequent amendment, demonstrates that the Act should be read to allow bazaars and raffles in such towns. Historical research shows that the selectman form of town administration was an early and popular form of local government in colonial New England. In those days, several times a year, the adult males met in town meetings to discuss public questions, to lay taxes, to make local laws, and to elect officers. The chief officers were “selectmen”, from three to nine in number, who would have responsibility for the general management of the public business; the town clerk; treasurer; constables; assessors and overseers of the poor. See, generally, H. W. Elson, History of the United States of  America (1904) (visited January 24, 2003).

In Connecticut in particular, selectmen were similarly chosen at town meetings, and these officials were responsible for the general management of the town. Our Supreme Court observed as follows:

The inhabitants of each town have always chosen certain persons for the general management of town affairs. These persons were at first called townsmen, afterwards selectmen. Until about 1672 their choice and duties were regulated mainly by town orders. In the Revision of 1672 the general court provided that the inhabitants of each town should annually at town meeting choose a convenient number of their inhabitants, not exceeding seven, to be selectmen or townsmen, to take care of and order the prudential affairs of their town. Statutes of 1808, p. 649, note. The substance of this provision has remained in force until the present time, and is to be found in §§ 1802 and 1830 of the General Statutes, Rev. 1902.

Buck v. Barnes, 75 Conn. 460, 462, 53 A. 1012 (1903).

Each town was required, by the Connecticut Constitution of 1818, to elect selectmen. Conn. Const. (1818) Art. X § 2; Buck v. Barnes, supra at 462. The rule was repeated in the Revision of 1955. Conn. Const. (1955), Art. X § 2.3 The office of first selectman also existed from early times. Meigs v. Theis, 102 Conn. 579, 589, 129 A. 551 (1925). This office grew in importance over the years and, by 1955, each town was required to elect a first selectman. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 60h (1945 Rev.)4; Conlan v. Burton, 21 Conn. Sup. 482, 484, 157 A.2d 244 (1959).

The Bazaar and Raffle Act was first enacted in 1955. See 1955 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 55-409. Sections 6 and 8 of the Act required investigation and permit issuance by the "chief of police or first selectman." Id. The requirement has remained unchanged to date. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §7-174, supra. This survey serves to demonstrate that in 1955, if a town did not have a chief of police, at least it was required to have a first selectman who could accept and act on applications for bazaars and raffles.

In 1957, circumstances began to change. In that year, the legislature enacted the Home Rule Act which, inter alia, gave towns the option of allowing their affairs to be managed by a variety of statutorily recognized chief executive officers. See 1957 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 57-465, Sec. 7. This statutory authorization exists today in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-193(a)(2), which provides as follows:

(2) The municipality shall have a chief executive officer, who may be one of the following: (A) The first selectman; (B) a chief administrative officer appointed by the board of selectmen; (C) a mayor elected by the electors of the municipality; (D) a warden elected by the electors of the borough; (E) a town, city or borough manager appointed by the board of selectmen, the council, the board of directors, the board of aldermen or the board of burgesses; (F) a chief administrative officer appointed by the mayor. Any municipality having a manager as its chief executive officer may also have a mayor who shall be the presiding officer of its legislative body, shall be the ceremonial head of such municipality and shall have such other powers and duties as the charter prescribes. The powers, duties and term of office of the chief executive officer shall be those prescribed by the general statutes and he shall have such other powers and duties as the charter prescribes.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-193(a)(2).

First selectmen, where they existed, were still recognized as the chief executive officers of their towns. This is still the law today. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-12a. However, by 1965, the requirement that all towns elect selectmen was deleted in favor of Home Rule. See Conn. Const. (1965) Art. X § 1.

Also, in 1957, the Bazaar and Raffle Act was amended to recognize the Home Rule forms of town administration. In that year, the Act was amended to allow petitions for bazaars and raffles to be presented to the "chief executive authority" of any town, city, or borough ..." 1957 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 57-378. This language recognized that modern municipalities in Connecticut would be operated, on a day-to-day basis, by chief executive officers of a variety of titles, including, but not limited to, first selectmen. This is especially true today, where the complexities and burdens of modern municipal administration often require the retention of full-time professional administrators.

Thus, where the Bazaar and Raffle Act, in part, authorizes action by any chief executive authority of a town, and, in other parts, by a chief of police or first selectman, the rules of statutory construction compel us to read these parts together, absent evident intent to the contrary, and to conclude that applications for bazaars and raffles may be investigated, and permits issued, by the chief of police, or, if there is no police department, by the first selectman, and, where neither of those offices exist, by the chief executive authority of the town. A review of the language, legislative history, and historical context reveals no intent to disenfranchise towns without a chief of police or first selectman. Rather, we observe evidence of intent to keep pace with modern forms of town administration. Our fundamental objective must be to give effect to that legislative intent. Commissioner of Labor v. C.J.M. Services, Inc., 73 Conn. App. 39, 47, 806 A.2d 1105 (2002), pet. for certif. to appeal granted, in part, 262 Conn. 921 (2002).

In sum, municipalities which have voted to allow bazaars and raffles, but which have no chief of police or first selectman to investigate applications and issue permits, may permit qualifying organizations to conduct bazaars and raffles, with the investigation and permit issuance duties performed by the local chief executive authority.

Very truly yours,


Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General


1Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-171 provides:

Sec. 7-171. Adoption of bazaar and raffle law. Any town, city or borough may by ordinance, adopt the provisions of sections 7-170 to 7-186, inclusive, and the chief executive authority of any town, city or borough shall, upon the petition of at least five per cent of the electors of such municipality as determined by the last-completed registry list, submit the question of adopting the provisions of sections 7-170 to 7-186, inclusive, to a vote of the electors of such municipality at a special meeting called for such purpose within twenty-one days after the receipt of such petition. Such petition shall contain the street addresses of the signers and shall be submitted to the municipal clerk, who shall certify thereon the number of names of electors on such petition, which names are on the last completed registry list. Each page of such petition shall contain a statement, signed under the penalties of false statement, by the person who circulated the same, that each person whose name appears on such page signed the same in person and that the circulator either knows each such signer or that the signer satisfactorily identified himself to the circulator. The warning for such meeting shall state that the purpose of such meeting is to vote on the adoption of the provisions of said sections. Such vote shall be taken and the results thereof canvassed and declared in the same manner as is provided for the election of officers of such municipality. The vote on such adoption shall be taken by a "YES" and "NO" vote on the voting machine and the designation of the question on the voting machine ballot label shall be "Shall the operation of bazaars and raffles be allowed?" and such ballot label shall be provided for use in accordance with the provisions of section 9-250. If, upon the official determination of the result of such vote, it appears that the majority of all the votes so cast are in approval of such question, the provisions of said sections shall take effect immediately. Any town, city or borough, having once voted on the question of allowing bazaars and raffles as herein provided, shall not vote again on such question within two years from the date of the previous vote thereon. Any subsequent vote thereon shall be taken at the next regular town, city or borough election following the receipt of a petition as herein provided, which petition shall be filed at least sixty days prior to such election, and such question may be so voted upon at intervals of not less than two years. Any town, city or borough which, prior to October 1, 1957, has voted more than once on such question, shall, for the purposes of this section, be treated as though it had voted only once thereon.

(Emphasis added.)

2Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-174 provides:

Sec. 7-174. Investigation of applicant. Such chief of police or first selectman, as the case may be, shall, on behalf of the executive director of the Division of Special Revenue, make or cause to be made an investigation of the qualifications of the applicant and the facts stated in the application and, if he determines that the applicant is qualified to hold, operate and conduct a bazaar or raffle under the provisions of sections 7-170 to 7-186, inclusive, that the members of the applicant designated in the application to hold, operate or conduct such bazaar or raffle are electors of such municipality, bona fide active members of the applicant and persons of good moral character and have never been convicted of a felony and that such bazaar or raffle is to be held, operated and conducted in accordance with the provisions of said sections, he shall, with the approval of the executive director, issue a permit to such applicant. Upon issuing such permit, such chief of police or selectman shall forward to the executive director the state's share of the permit fee, if any. Any investigation required pursuant to this section of the qualifications of an applicant for a "Class No. 7" permit, authorized pursuant to section 7-174, shall be made by the executive director of the Division of Special Revenue.

(Emphasis added.)

3Conn. Const. (1955) Art. X § 2 provided:

Town officers, election of

Sec. 2. Each town shall, annually, or biennially, as the electors of the town may determine, elect selectmen and such officers of local police as the law may prescribe.

4Conn. Gen. Stat. § 60h (1945 Rev.) provided:

Selectmen. Each town shall, at its annual or biennial town meeting, elect a first selectman, who shall be town agent unless otherwise provided by law, and two other selectmen or, in the case of any town having a population of ten thousand or more, not more than six other selectmen unless otherwise provided by law. The selectmen so elected shall constitute the board of selectmen for such town. The votes cast for the unsuccessful candidate for first selectmen shall be counted as votes for him as a member of such board. No more than a bare majority of any such board shall be members of the same political party. Effective July 18, 1945.

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