Carabetta joins plaintiffs in court case over Meriden Charter

MERIDEN — The chief executive of The Carabetta Cos. was successful Monday in his effort to intervene in two lawsuits that challenge recent City Council-approved appointments.

Joseph F. Carabetta argued that because the company is among the city’s largest taxpayers, the outcome of the lawsuits could directly impact him and his business. Carabetta’s attorneys made the argument in a Monday morning hearing held at Merien Superior Court with the motion being granted by Judge Jack W. Fischer.

“Daily they experience the impact of decisions made by Meriden public officials who are expected to abide by and uphold the Meriden charter and who derive their authority to govern through the will of the people,” the legal motion filed on behalf of Carabetta states. “When government ceases to be responsive to the people it purports to represent, and worse, when individuals wield the powers of governance illegitimately, it directly, adversely, and often irreparably impacts those subject to the government action — the citizens, taxpayers, and voters, including (Carabetta and Westfield Glen).”

Defendants in the two lawsuits had filed objections to Carabetta’s involvement. It was argued that Carabetta did not have a “direct or substantial interest in the outcome,” there was “no necessity for or value” to the intervention “in terms of resolving this controversy,” and it could “open the door to dozens of potential intervenors.”

Filed by Republican Town Committee members Anna Neumon and Martin Horsky, one lawsuit challenges the appointments of John Benigni to the School Building Committee, David Salafia to the Building Code Board of Appeals, Philip Mangiaracina to the Human Rights Advisory Board and William Kroll to the Municipal Pension Board.

The lawsuit alleges that because the appointments, which were recommended by former Mayor Michael S. Rohde, were made after Mayor Manny Santos was sworn in, they should be voided. The plaintiffs are represented by Craig Fishbein, a Wallingford-based attorney who is also a Republican member of the Wallingford Town Council.

The other lawsuit, filed by We the People Chairwoman Lois DeMayo and Jack Biafore, who has been nominated to join the Republican Town Committee and is the brother-in-law of City Councilor Lenny Rich, a Republican, argues that Santos should have been able to appoint the position of corporation counsel. The lawsuit was filed against the City Council-approved choice, Michael Quinn.

Eliot Gersten, of the Hartford-based Pullman & Comley law firm representing Carabetta, said he was pleased with the decision. Gersten added that Carabetta now becomes a plaintiff to the lawsuit and will be “on the same side as Mr. Fishbein.” Gersten also noted that Carabetta was allowed to intervene as a voter in the city.

Hugh Manke, of the New Haven-based Updike, Kelly & Spellacy law firm, is the attorney representing the defendants. Manke confirmed that only Carabetta and not the limited liability company will become a plaintiff, stating that Carabetta was “allegedly” a taxpayer. It has been argued that, individually, Carabetta is not a taxpayer because his properties are owned by various entities, including his property on Canyon Drive.

Fishbein said intervention is “not an everyday occurrence,” but called it “an important case.”

“It’s an important case for the city of Meriden and how their charter is retroactively interpreted, as well as interpreted going forward,” he said. “My clients welcome their expressed interest.”

Both suits will head to trial this Thursday at Meriden Superior Court at 10 a.m.

dbrechlin@record-journal.com (203) 317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ



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