Lopez v. Bridgeport Board of Education
Plaintiffs can file an action in quo warranto to request that a court rule whether an individual possesses the right to serve as a public official. The plaintiffs, citizens of Bridgeport, allege the following facts. Robert Trefy, the chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education, requested approval to appoint the defendant, Paul Vallas, as the acting superintendent for 90 days, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §10-157(b). Trefy also requested a 90-day extension. Trefy's requests were granted. Vallas became the acting superintendent for 180 days, between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012. Allegedly, Vallas continued to serve, after his appointment expired, and Trefy did not request another extension. In 2013, Vallas received an appointment for one year, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, pursuant to Public Act §12-116. The board also signed an employment contract for three years, starting Jan. 1, 2014. The plaintiffs sued Vallas, alleging that the initial appointment for 180 days and that Vallas' conduct in continuing to serve, after his 180-day appointment expired, and before the board of education signed an employment contract, violated C.G.S. §10-157(b). Vallas moved to dismiss and argued the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, because the plaintiffs did not file a petition with the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education and failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The plaintiffs object that they were not required to exhaust administrative remedies. The plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Vallas holds a public office to which he is not entitled. A petition to the commissioner of the Department of Education could not provide the plaintiffs with the relief they request in quo warranto, which is a court ruling that the defendant's appointment was void ab initio. 'Well-settled law in our state,' wrote the court, 'provides that quo warranto is the exclusive means by which a plaintiff may challenge a public officer's entitlement to an office in which he or she is serving.' Because administrative procedures could not provide the same relief, the court rejected Vallas' argument that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative procedures.