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July 2013

Developments in Municipal Law

Overhaul of Revenue Collection Statutes Goes into Effect this Fall

The most comprehensive overhaul of Connecticut’s municipal revenue collection statutes in decades will go into effect on October 1, 2013.  Public Act 13-276 will change the manner in which towns, districts, and other municipal entities collect the taxes they impose on real estate, business equipment, and motor vehicles as well as water and sewer charges and other types of liens and assessments.  Most significantly, the Act will: 

  • standardize the fees charged by collectors for enforcement actions, the order in which partial payments are applied, and how interest charges are calculated
  • expand the types of delinquencies for which a town may deny or revoke business licenses and permits
  • require either the State Office of Policy and Management or a standing town committee to decide whether to approve all abatement applications
  • authorize two or more municipal entities to conduct collection proceedings jointly
  • streamline the procedures for auctioning delinquent properties so as to simplify the notifications and encourage title insurability
  • expand the situations in which small balances or uncollectible delinquencies can be written off or suspended, while prohibiting unauthorized debt waivers
  • save properties from foreclosure by giving lien priority to taxes deferred for low-income individuals and to private encumbrancers who redeem on behalf of delinquent owners  

Appellate Court Rejects “Fiduciary Duty” of Municipal Officers

On June 11, 2013, the Connecticut Appellate Court held for the first time that municipal officers generally do not owe a heightened “fiduciary duty” to their electorate.   While fiduciary duties are reserved for positions of special trust such as business partners and the attorney-client relationship, municipal officials serve the public at large rather than specific individuals, so courts will not second-guess their decisions absent evidence such as corruption or fraud. 

The Court also held that “public officials [need not] disclose all of their political intentions to the electorate before election in order to avoid invalidation of their acts once elected,” and that voting on issues that affect them personally as residents of the regions they represent does not constitute a conflict of interest.

The rulings arose from a dispute over whether the officers of a municipal district validly approved a referendum in which certain residents, including the officers themselves shortly after being elected, voted to permanently remove their homes from the district.  The case is Candlewood Hills Tax District v. Medina, A.C. 33564.

 

Adam J. Cohen, Chair of Pullman & Comley’s Municipal Law and Community Associations Section, was a principal drafter of Public Act 13-276 and lead counsel for the successful appellants in Candlewood Hills v. Medina.  For more information, contact him at 203-330-2230 or ajcohen@pullcom.com.

 

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