City of Stamford v. Tarzia
Even if a municipal charter provides that corporation counsel is required to defend municipal workers from suits that arise out of official duties, an individual who hires a private attorney to defend an ethics complaint may be required to pay his own attorneys' fees. City workers filed suits against Joseph Tarzia, the former chair of the Board of Finance, alleging vexatious litigation, and the City of Stamford requested a declaratory judgment that the city is not responsible to pay Tarzia's litigation costs. The court granted permission to intervene to Salvatore Gabriele, a member of the city's board of representatives. Gabriele's counterclaim complaint alleged that Michael Scacco, a maintenance supervisor, filed a retaliatory ethics complaint against Gabriele and Tarzia, because Gabriele allegedly exposed corruption when he requested public records about the purchase, maintenance and use of municipal trucks. Gabriele hired an attorney to defend the ethics complaint, and requested that the City of Stamford pay his legal expenses, pursuant to the city charter and Connecticut General Statutes §7-101a. The City of Stamford filed a motion to strike and argued it is not required to pay Gabriele's legal expenses. Counsel did not find any Connecticut court decisions directly on point. The city charter provides that corporation counsel is required to defend city workers from suits that arise out of official duties. The court found that the city charter and C.G.S. §7-101a do not override the American Rule, which generally requires that parties pay their own legal expenses. "According to its plain language," wrote the court, "§C5-20-3 of the Stamford city charter does not provide any right to attorney's fees incurred in enforcing a municipality's indemnity obligations." Also, the legislature, when it enacted Public Act 10-68, established it is capable of creating the right to payment of attorneys' fees in connection with the enforcement of a municipality's indemnity obligations. P.A. 10-68 explicitly provides for "the payment of attorney's fees and costs incurred during the prosecution and the enforcement of this section." The legislature chose not to amend C.G.S. §7-101a, to include similar language, when it passed P.A. 10-68.