Corporation Counsel: ‘Why I will appeal’

On May 8, 2014, Mayor Santos vetoed Meriden City Council’s resolution to appeal the decision in the matter of Lois DeMayo, Et. Al. vs. Michael D. Quinn. I respectfully disagree with the court’s decision, and believe that an appeal should be pursued.

Our citizens understand the long journey Meriden has taken to achieve our current form of government. Prior to 1979, Meriden had a “strong mayor” form of government. Unfortunately this system became unworkable, culminating in the implementation of a city manager/council form of government. This system existed from 1979 to 1992, and during that time the city council was solely responsible for appointing the corporation counsel and selecting the mayor — a ceremonial figurehead — from its ranks.

In 1992, our system of government was modified to allow the voters to elect the Mayor, though the position remained largely ceremonial in nature. That year, the Charter Revision Commission recommended amending the charter to allow the mayor to make recommendations for appointment to various board and commission positions. It kept intact the council’s exclusive authority to appoint and remove a corporation counsel. These charter revisions were approved by a vote of the people of Meriden.

From 1979 through 2013, every City Council has exercised exclusive authority to appoint the corporation counsel without any recommendation or interference from the ceremonial mayor. This appeal is not about politics, but rather vindicating the intent of the charter’s drafters and the voters who approved the 1992 charter revisions. They wanted the power of appointment of the corporation counsel to lie with the city council alone, and if the trial court’s decision is allowed to stand, it would reverse nearly thirty-five years of the will of the people; this should not be permitted.

In his veto message, the mayor has stated that the cost of litigation in and of itself should discourage the city council from authorizing an appeal. Litigation can be expensive, and the city has admittedly spent considerable sums defending this lawsuit, which the mayor “may or may not” have known about prior to its filing. But the cost of litigation alone should not dissuade us from taking an appeal. In Connecticut, we have over 200 years of appellate authority for a reason: even the wisest and most experienced trial court judges make errors and misapply the law from time to time. It is my belief that the court’s decision was erroneous, and should be appealed.

While our mayor may argue that I wish to appeal merely for selfish reasons to protect my job, he is wrong. Regardless of my job status, I firmly believe that this decision has long-term and potentially detrimental impacts on the citizens of Meriden and our system of government. If it is not made clear that the mayor’s power to recommend appointments is limited to boards and commissions, and does not extend to recommending who the council should appoint as the corporation counsel, then it can carry us down a slippery slope. Could a mayor read the trial court’s decision and interpret it to mean that he or she has the power to recommend to the city council who our city manager should be?

One should be very concerned where this decision may lead us if left unchallenged. The filing of this appeal will ensure that the trial court’s decision is not left unchecked, as not appealing would leave in place a decision that the citizens of Meriden never intended or expected. If the city council does not override the mayor’s veto, then I am prepared to pursue the appeal on my own, and at no cost to the city.

Michael D. Quinn is Corporation Counsel, City of Meriden.



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