Best v. Town of Stratford
A court can find that a municipal charter permits a municipality to appoint only a single director, as opposed to two directors, to manage a department. In 2010, the defendant Town of Stratford allegedly began to advertise for a new director of emergency medical services, although it already employed an emergency medical services director, Donna Best, and Best had not resigned. The municipality's job description for the new position was the same as the description for Best's job. Eventually, the municipality hired Phillip Onofrio as a "second" director of emergency medical services. Best requested a writ of quo warranto and claimed that Onofrio effectively usurped her job responsibilities, in violation of the municipal charter. The defendants objected that the municipal charter permits more than one individual to serve as the director of a department. "In a quo warranto proceeding, the burden is upon the defendant to show a complete title to the office in dispute," pursuant to State ex rel. Gaski v. Basile, a 1977 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The municipal charter provides, "The Fire Chief, Chief of Police, Administrator of Emergency Medical Services, Human Resources director, and the heads of each administrative department shall be a director." The court found that the municipal charter described the administrator and director of emergency medical services as a singular job. "Every reference to `a director' contained in §5.2.2," wrote the court, "is singular." When Onofrio became the "second" director, he allegedly took over Best's budget responsibilities, replaced her on the Public Safety Committee, and became responsible for hiring and training. "The defendant's argument that the language somehow creates authority for two or more directors," added the court, "is confounding and would require an exercise in mental gymnastics not consistent with our tenets of statutory construction." The court rejected the defendants' argument that because the town attorney allegedly was consulted about the decision to appoint a "second" director, the municipality's decision complied with the municipal charter. The court found that Onofrio did not qualify as the "de jure" director of emergency medical services and he lacked legal title to the office.