Bateson v. Weddle
Since its 1878 decision in State Ex rel. Waterbury v. Martin, the Connecticut Supreme Court has relied implicitly on the rule established therein that a plaintiff's status as a taxpayer is sufficient to establish standing to pursue a quo warranto action. The developers of a train station project in Fairfield expressed their concern to Fairfield's first selectman that members of the conservation commission, particularly the conservation director, Thomas Steinke, were acting unreasonably concerning the developer's compliance with Fairfield's inland wetlands and watercourses regulations. Consequently, the town's conservation commission appointed Gary Weddle as wetlands compliance officer for the project, specifying that Weddle would report directly to it, eliminating the conservation director's involvement with the project. The plaintiffs, concerned Fairfield taxpayers, brought this action in quo warranto, pursuant to C.G.S. §52-491, claiming that Weddle's appointment violated the town charter. Following trial, the court concluded, inter alia, that Weddle's appointment was unlawful. The court granted the writ of quo warranto and ordered the defendant, Weddle, removed. Weddle and the intervening defendant, the conservation commission, appealed raising several claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. The trial court properly concluded that the plaintiff taxpayers had standing. Weddle urged the Supreme Court to overrule its decision in Martin. The Court recognized that the requisite showing to establish taxpayer standing in the context of injunctive or declaratory relief is greater than the showing required to proceed in a quo warranto action under Martin. Nevertheless, the broad conferral of standing in Martin was found justified by the purpose of quo warranto actions to test who the lawful public official is, rather than how the public official performs official duties. Because the plaintiffs contested Weddle's right to the position as defined by the commission, the complaint properly sounded in quo warranto. The plaintiffs, Fairfield taxpayers, demonstrated sufficient interest to establish standing. Further, the trial court properly granted the writ of quo warranto. The court properly determined that the commission appointed Weddle to the office of wetlands compliance officer in a manner that did not comply with the conditions enumerated in the town charter. The commission was without power to exempt Weddle from the requirement that individuals appointed under 10.3.D of the charter are entitled to enforce relevant laws, ordinances and regulations, subject to the general supervision of the conservation director.