Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 2, 2004
The Honorable Michael J. Cicchetti
Office of Policy and Management
State of Connecticut
450 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Mr. Cicchetti:
In your capacity as Chairman of the Waterbury Financial Planning and Assistance Board (the "Board"), you have asked for an advisory opinion concerning the membership of the Board. Specifically, you have asked whether Board member Mr. Jack Cronan, an appointee of the Governor who is the chief executive officer of the Waterbury Teacher's Association, may continue to serve as a Board member following his planned retirement from employment with the City of Waterbury (the "City") on July 1, 2004 and end of his tenure as chief executive officer of the Waterbury Teacher's Association. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that he may not continue as a Board member.
The Board was created by the General Assembly in 2001 by the enactment of Special Act 01-1. Upon finding and declaring that a financial emergency existed with regard to the City, Special Act 01-1, among other things, created the Board "to review the financial affairs" of the City "to achieve or maintain access to public credit markets, to fund the city's accumulated deficits and to restore the financial stability" of the City. Special Act 01-1, § 1. The Board is charged with broad financial oversight powers and duties, including the review and approval of the City's annual budget, a financial plan for the City, and the terms of bonds or funding obligations; the review and approval of collective bargaining agreements or modifications to such agreements; service as an arbitration panel as to labor contracts subject to binding arbitration; review and approval of other contracts; and a variety of other auditing and monitoring functions. Id., § 11.
Section 10(a) of Special Act 01-1 provides that the Board shall consist of seven members: the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management or the Secretary's designee, who serves as chairman; the Treasurer or the Treasurer's designee; the mayor of Waterbury; and four members appointed by the Governor, including one who is a resident of the City, one who is affiliated with a business located in the City, one with an "expertise in finance," and one who is the chief executive officer of a bargaining unit representing City employees. Id., § 10(a). The Special Act specifies that this last member "shall be the chief executive officer of a bargaining unit representing employees of the city who is jointly recommended by a majority of the chief executive officers of such units provided such recommendation shall be made not later than seven days after the effective date of this act." Id.
Mr. Cronan, presently the chief executive officer of the Waterbury Teacher's Association, is the Governor's appointee pursuant to this provision. Your letter indicates that the recommendation for his appointment was made within seven days of the effective date of Special Act 01-1. Your letter further indicates, however, that Mr. Cronan intends to retire from his employment with the City and therefore will no longer be the chief executive officer of the Waterbury Teacher's Association. Your question is whether Mr. Cronan may remain as a Board member even if he no longer is the chief executive officer of a bargaining unit.
The language of the Special Act does not itself plainly or directly answer the question, and our review of the legislative history of the Special Act provides little clear insight on this question. Therefore, our analysis must be informed by general principles of statutory construction. As with all statutes, we are guided by the requirement that legislation must be interpreted in a manner that furthers, rather than frustrates, its intended purpose, and that does not result in absurd results. Jones v. Kramer, 267 Conn. 336, 348 (2004); State v. Reynolds, 264 Conn. 1, 33 (2003), cert. denied, 124 S.Ct. 1614 (2004).
It is evident that the General Assembly dictated the composition of the Board to ensure representation of key parts of the Waterbury community. Thus, the Governor's appointments are required to include a Waterbury resident, a person affiliated with a Waterbury business, and a representative of the City's employee unions. Unlike the appointment of a person having "expertise in finance," the purpose of requiring the appointment of the chief executive officer of a bargaining unit is not simply to ensure that this appointee have certain qualifications or experience. Rather, it is to provide representation on the Board for the City's employee unions. See 44 H. Proc., at 734 (Mar. 8, 2001) (remarks of Rep. McDonald indicating that Board's membership was expanded to include union representative). It appears that union representation on the Board was in part a response to concerns raised about the Board's broad powers with regard to collective bargaining agreements. Id.; see also 44 H. Proc., at 727 (remarks of Rep. Belden); Special Act 01-1, § 11(4), (5).
No other interpretation of the statute is viable in light of its purposes and its language. The provision in § 10(a) of the Special Act requiring that the recommendation for appointment by the majority of the chief elected officers of bargaining units be made within seven days of the Special Act's effective date creates some ambiguity. If literally construed, only a person recommended within that initial seven day period could serve as a Board member. However, in light of the declaration of a financial emergency that was the cause for the creation of the Board, the purpose of this provision was to ensure that the initial appointment would be made quickly, not to create a permanent appointment. To construe this provision otherwise would bar new appointments -- with the untenable result of precluding any new members after resignation or other departure of this Board member. That would be a result contrary to the basic rule of construction that statutes must be construed to avoid absurd or unreasonable results. See Rocco v. Garrison, 268 Conn. 541, 550 (2004).
The most reasonable construction of § 10(a), consistent with the legislation's evident purpose of providing representation for the City's employee unions on the Board, is that one Board member must be a chief executive officer of an employee bargaining unit. Accordingly, if Mr. Cronan retires and no longer is the chief executive of a bargaining unit, he cannot continue to serve as a Board member.
Very truly yours,