Carofano v. City of Bridgeport

Decision Date09 July 1985
Citation495 A.2d 1011,196 Conn. 623
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties, 123 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2408 Geraldine P. CAROFANO et al. v. CITY OF BRIDGEPORT et al. John DOE et al. v. CITY OF BRIDGEPORT et al.

J. Daniel Sagarin, Milford, with whom, on the brief, was William B. Barnes, Milford, for appellants (named plaintiffs et al.).

Ernest C. LaFollette, Monroe, for appellants (intervening plaintiffs in the second case, John Fiorini and Larry Morgan).

Thomas K. Jackson, Cheshire, for appellees (defendants in each case).


SHEA, Associate Justice.

These consolidated appeals present as principal issues (1) the constitutionality of our "mandatory binding arbitration" statute, General Statutes § 7-473c, 1 which governs the resolution of disputes between municipalities and the representatives of their employees over the terms of collective bargaining agreements when negotiations have reached an impasse; and (2) the constitutionality of a provision contained in an arbitration award issued pursuant to § 7-473c that requires current and future members of the Bridgeport police department, as a condition of such employment, to maintain a bona fide residence within the city of Bridgeport. We conclude that neither the arbitration procedure established by the statute nor the challenged award violates any provision of either the federal or the state constitutions. Accordingly, we find no error in the judgment for the defendants rendered by the trial court in these actions challenging enforcement of the residency requirement for Bridgeport police officers.

On February 20, 1933, the defendant city adopted an ordinance, § 1-13, requiring all of its officers and employees to reside in Bridgeport. This ordinance was reenacted on July 6, 1959. Until 1975, however, no action was taken to enforce the ordinance, except for the termination of one fire department employee in 1965 for violation of a departmental regulation requiring city residency. In December, 1975, the city legislative body adopted a resolution to enforce the ordinance, giving each nonresident employee until July 1, 1976, to acquire a residence in the city or be terminated from employment. Early in 1976, city employees were requested to execute affidavits of residence. The defendant Mandanici, mayor of the city, on May 17, 1976, sent letters to nonresident civil service employees advising them that, unless they complied with the residency ordinance, they would be discharged.

On February 19, 1976, seventeen members of the Bridgeport police department began an action to enjoin the city and its officials from enforcing the ordinance. A temporary injunction restraining such enforcement pending a full determination of the merits of the cause was issued on July 1, 1976, by the court, Burns, J., following a hearing. When the defendants, nevertheless, initiated proceedings to dismiss the plaintiffs for failure to comply with the residency requirement, a further temporary injunction was ordered on July 20, 1976, prohibiting such proceedings.

While the temporary injunctions remained in force, the collective bargaining agreement with the policemen was being renegotiated for an additional period. The policemen's union, Local 1159 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, and the city proceeded through the various stages of negotiation, factfinding and mediation as provided by General Statutes §§ 7-469, 7-473, and 7-473b. The city insisted upon inclusion of a residency clause in the agreement 2 and the union resisted. In order to resolve the dispute the union finally requested binding "last best offer" arbitration under § 7-473c. On June 14, 1978, the arbitrators made an award that selected for inclusion in the collective bargaining agreement the city's proposal of a residency requirement as a condition of employment, allowing 120 days for compliance from the date of implementation of the agreement.

After the award had been made, the city moved for dissolution of the temporary injunctions that had been issued in 1976 upon the ground that they interfered with implementation of the collective bargaining agreement. A suit was commenced on August 14, 1978, by eleven more members of the Bridgeport police department to enjoin enforcement of the residency clause of the agreement. This case was consolidated with the earlier action, a joint stipulation of facts was filed and the cases were tried together. The court found the issues in both cases for the defendants and rendered judgment accordingly.

In this appeal the plaintiffs claim the trial court erred in concluding (1) that the plaintiffs, by requesting binding arbitration pursuant to § 7-473c, had waived the right to challenge the constitutionality of that statute and of the residency provision contained in the award; (2) that the municipal employment binding arbitration statute was constitutional; (3) that the residency requirement of the award as well as the residency ordinance 3 did not deprive the plaintiffs of "equal protection of the laws" under our Connecticut constitution; and (4) that the city was not estopped from enforcing the residency requirement.


We disagree with the conclusion of the trial court that, because it was the union representing the plaintiffs as members of the Bridgeport police department in the collective bargaining process that requested binding arbitration pursuant to § 7-473c after an impasse had been reached in negotiations with the city, the plaintiffs must be deemed to have waived any challenge to the constitutionality of that statute. The court relied upon the principle that "one who voluntarily proceeds under a statute and claims benefits thereby conferred will not be heard to question its constitutionality in order to avoid its burdens." 16 Am.Jur.2d, Constitutional Law § 209. "Nor can one who avails himself of the benefits conferred by a statute deny its validity." Buck v. Kuykendall, 267 U.S. 307, 316, 45 S.Ct. 324, 326, 69 L.Ed. 623 (1925). This court has applied this estoppel doctrine to bar a party who has sought the relief provided in an ordinance or statute from later in the same proceeding raising the issue of its constitutionality. Florentine v. Darien, 142 Conn. 415, 428, 115 A.2d 328 (1955); Strain v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 137 Conn. 36, 38, 74 A.2d 462 (1950); Holley v. Sunderland, 110 Conn. 80, 85, 147 A. 300 (1929).

The rule is plainly inapplicable to the situation presented by this case. The union's request for binding arbitration was made three weeks before such arbitration would have been automatically imposed on the parties by the terms of § 7-473c(a): "If, within ninety days after the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement ... neither the municipal employer or the municipal employee organization has requested the arbitration services of the state board of mediation and arbitration, said board shall notify the municipal employer and municipal employee organization ... that binding and final arbitration is now imposed on them...." The union, therefore, did not voluntarily seek the benefit of the statute it now challenges but merely recognized that the arbitration procedure provided was mandatory and, in view of the intransigence of the parties on the residency clause issue, inevitable. Although, by making the request, the union may have advanced the arbitration process three weeks, its action cannot result in the implied waiver found by the court. The plaintiffs thus are not precluded by estoppel from challenging the constitutionality of § 7-473c or of the residency clause imposed upon them as a condition of employment by the award of the arbitrators pursuant to that statute. 4


The plaintiffs attack the constitutionality of § 7-473c upon two grounds: (1) that it violates the "home rule" provision of our state constitution, article tenth, § 1; and (2) that it constitutes an invalid delegation of legislative power. We reject both of these contentions.


The first part of the home rule provision of our constitution authorizes the General Assembly by general law to delegate "such legislative authority as from time to time it deems appropriate to towns, cities and boroughs relative to the powers, organization, and form of government of such political subdivisions," but reserves to that body the determination of the maximum terms of office of local elected officials. This part has been implemented by the Home Rule Act; General Statutes §§ 7-187 through 7-194; which sets forth the procedure for adopting, revising or repealing municipal charters. The second part of the constitutional provision prohibits the General Assembly, subject to specified exceptions not pertinent to this case, from enacting "special legislation relative to the powers, organization, terms of elective offices or form of government of any single town, city or borough...." "Our constitutional home rule provision ... prohibits the legislature from encroaching on the local authority to regulate matters of purely local concern, such as the organization of local government or local budgetary policy." Shelton v. Commissioner, 193 Conn. 506, 521, 479 A.2d 208 (1984); Caulfield v. Noble, 178 Conn. 81, 90-91, 420 A.2d 1160 (1979).

In Caulfield v. Noble, supra, we held that a state statute of general application requiring the use of surplus funds by a town at the end of its fiscal year to reduce the taxation rate for the following year could not, by virtue of the autonomy given to towns in the matter of real property taxation, override a home rule charter provision allowing the surplus to be retained in a special unallocated account. From this precedent the plaintiffs argue that setting conditions of employment for municipal employees is also a matter of purely local concern that can be delegated only to the municipality...

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    ...pertains to a matter of statewide concern such that it preempts any conflicting provisions of the charter''); Carofano v. Bridgeport, 196 Conn. 623, 631, 495 A.2d 1011 (1985) (statute of general applicability conflicts with home rule provision of state constitution only when ''its purpose o......
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