In the Public Sector, in addition to contract negotiations, binding interest arbitration and general labor and employment representation, the firm’s municipal practice often requires a thorough knowledge of municipal law, charters, ordinances and procedures, particularly in matters of discipline or dismissals of appointed or elected officials. As a result, we have accumulated substantial experience in complex municipal governance issues. For example:

Discipline or dismissal of Police Chiefs, Statutory Officers or Appointed Officials

In numerous cases our firm has provided experienced navigation through the complex maze of interrelated statutes, charter provisions and ordinances.

Charter Revisions

A Charter revision is an infrequent, but hugely significant event for a Town or municipality.It requires not only compliance with intricate requirements of state statutes and the charter itself, but also forces communities to deal with the fundamental issues of democracy, governance and fairness, in an often divided political climate.. We are proud to have served this role for several communities, including Counsel for the following Charter Revision Commissions

  • City of Waterbury 2010 Charter Revision Commission
    Issues included board appointments, residency preference, alderman by district, selection of school superintendent.
  • Town of Watertown 2011 Charter Revision Commission
    Issues included staggered terms, referendum changes, procedures for removal of appointees, form of government.
  • City of Waterbury 2014 Charter Revision Commission
    Issues included term lengths for Mayor and other officials; historically important changes to Aldermanic representation by district while preserving minority party protection.

Ground Breaking Supreme Court Rulings on Public Officials

In 1915 the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Sibley v. State, 89 Conn. 682, 96 A. 161 (1915) that the “Compensation to a public officer is a matter of statute and not of contract and it does not depend upon the amount or value of the services performed, but is incidental to the office.”

For almost 100 years this was the basis of a Connecticut common law interpretation that that a public officer is paid for the office, and neither the amount of time on the job nor the quality of the service is relevant. Thus once in office the salary was guaranteed, permitting arrested public officials, and even mayors sitting in jail, to continue to collect salaries until their elected term expired.

In 2006 the Town of Watertown, as a matter of principle and public policy, refused to pay an elected Town Clerk who stopped performing the duties of the position. Summa & Ryan, P.C. represented the Town and successfully argued the matter at the Connecticut Supreme Court. A unanimous Supreme Court rejected the almost century old interpretation and ruled that “common-law does not establish a public officers clear legal right to salary under all circumstances” and “there is a relationship between payment and performance of duty”

A video of the actual Supreme Court Argument, which was held at a packed Western Connecticut State University Student Center at as part of the Supreme Courts Educational Outreach Program, can be viewed here.

Actual Supreme Decision can be viewed here.

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