McAdams v. Barbieri

Decision Date23 May 1956
Citation143 Conn. 405,123 A.2d 182
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesJohn McADAMS v. Arthur T. BARBIERI, Director of Public Works for the City of New Haven. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut

George W. Crawford, Corp. Counsel, New Haven, with whom was Harold M. Mulvey, Asst. Corp. Counsel, New Haven, for appellant (defendant).

John J. Kinney, Jr., New Haven, with whom was Robert M. Taylor, Jr., New Haven, for appellee (plaintiff).


BALDWIN, Associate Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court granting, upon the application of the plaintiff, an order in the nature of a mandamus requiring the defendant, director of public works of New Haven, to reinstate the plaintiff as an employee of the city in a position from which the defendant had discharged him. The appeal raises the question whether an amendment to the New Haven charter gave the plaintiff civil service status which prevented his summary removal by the defendant.

The defendant has assigned errors in the court's finding. Some of these he has abandoned. Those pressed involve findings of fact which are supported by the evidence or the elimination of which would not alter the result. The facts are as follows: The plaintiff, a man now in his early sixties, had applied for a job in February, 1946, to the then director of public works of New Haven. The director sent him to see the chief clerk of the department of public works, who, upon learning that the plaintiff had had experience in inventory work, put him to work taking inventory of city equipment and material at the supply house. This took six weeks, during which the plaintiff worked with Capelli, a clerk already employed there. At the end of the six weeks, Capelli left the employ of the city. The plaintiff remained in sole charge of the inventory work and each year prepared and filed with the chief clerk a complete inventory of city material and equipment. He also worked part time as a street inspector. His employment continued until June 8, 1954, when the defendant discharged him.

The plaintiff did not take an examination of any kind to qualify under the civil service law and regulations for either of the jobs he performed. When he was first employed, and at all times during his employment, the charter of New Haven authorized the civil service board to prescribe rules for ascertaining the competency of applicants for position or promotion for all positions in the city government except elective officers, commissioners, officials appointed by the mayor, and superintendents, principals and teachers employed by the board of education, and required the civil service board under rules adopted by it to 'hold competitive examinations as a basis for recommendations respecting any such positions or promotions.' New Haven Charter, § 269 (1928), § 202 (1952); 13 Spec.Laws, p. 422, § 118; 14 Spec.Laws, p. 436, § 2; 15 Spec.Laws, p. 962, § 2. Such rules were adopted by the board and were in effect in 1946. There was a classified position of clerk in the supply house which involved the taking of inventory. The charter also provided that any appointment made in violation of its provisions was null and void and that such a violation was a misdemeanor punishable by fine. New Haven Charter, §§ 271, 272 (1928); §§ 205, 206 (1965); 13 Spec.Laws, p. 423, §§ 120, 121; 16 Spec.Laws, p. 804.

Pursuant to the charter, the civil service board provided by rule that when services of a temporary character were to be rendered for a limited period, the appointing officer should inform the board, stating the duration of the period, the compensation, and other conditions of employment; that temporary successive appointments should not be made; and that no person who had served under a temporary appointment in any department should be given a second temporary appointment in the same department until three months had elapsed from the termination of the first appointment. New Haven Civ.Serv.Bd.Rule 10(1) (1911). The rules also provided for the establishment and maintenance of a separate eligible list of persons willing to accept temporary employment as clerks and that when a sufficient number of temporary clerks could not be secured from that list or from any other appropriate list, additional clerks might be employed without examiantion. Id., Rule 10(2). It did not appear that at the time the plaintiff was hired the civil service board had not established and was not maintaining a list of persons eligible for temporary appointment. However, the plaintiff alleged in his complaint, and the defendant admitted in his answer, that the plaintiff 'was hired as a temporary employee in the Department of Public Works * * * and was assigned to the position of Clerk in said Department, in the Supply House.' The plaintiff worked as a clerk and inspector until his discharge on June 8, 1954, and was paid accordingly. He was not, however, a number of the retirement system, in which all employees in the classified service were required to participate and under which retirement at the age of 70 was compulsory.

On December 16, 1949, the board of aldermen amended the city charter effective as of February 16, 1950. New Haven Bd. of Aldm.Jour., pp. 482-489, 512-516 (1949); New Haven Charter, §§ 200-220 (1952). The amendment purported to establish a department of personnel and civil service and to provide for the appointment of a civil service board and a director of personnel, for the establishment of a classified and an unclassified service, and for the appointment and promotion of persons therein, with preference for veterans. It included a provision by virtue of which the plaintiff claims he acquired civil service status. It is this section which the defendant asserts was invalid and ineffective. Its terms will be set forth in full and discussed later in the opinion.

When the amendment was adopted, there were 287 city employees holding classified positions who had no civil service status. Many of them had been in the employ of the city over a long period of years. They had been appointed during administrations of opposite political faiths. None of them had ever been certified by the civil service board. The position held by the plaintiff was not included in the unclassified service as set up by the amendment (§ 5). See New Haven Charter, § 211 (1952). The amendment was prepared by the corporation counsel with the approval of the mayor; it was introduced in the board of aldermen as a petition of the New Haven City Employees Association, but it was an administration measure, so-called. It was the intention of the city administration to give civil service status to the 287 employees by means of the amendment. In February, 1951, an election year, long after the amendment had become effective, the mayor sent the plaintiff and the other 286 employees purportedly affected by it a letter advising them that they had obtained full civil service status. When the defendant discharged the plaintiff, he gave as his reason for the discharge his 'down the line policies for jobs for his appointees.' From all of these facts the trial court concluded that the plaintiff had acquired a civil service status in a clerk's position and that his discharge was illegal.

We shall consider first the legal power of the board of aldermen to adopt the amendment and its effect with respect to the then existing provisions of the charter relating to civil service. The defendant contends among other claims that any construction of the amendment which gives to the plaintiff civil service status renders the amendment unconstitutional as class legislation. Conn.Const. art. I, § 1; U.S.Cosnt. Amend. XIV § 1. It is a long-established rule that one cannot question the constitutional validity of a legislative enactment on the ground that it is class legislation unless he is one of the class which is claimed to suffer from discrimination. The defendant is not seeking employment by the city which has been denied him because of the amendment. Consequently, he cannot raise the constitutional question of class legislation. Carroll v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 136 Conn. 49, 59, 68 A.2d 299; Connecticut Light & Power Co. v. Town of Southbury, 95 Conn. 242, 246, 111 A. 363; 11 Am.Jur. 759, § 114. This is not to say, however, that the defendant cannot challenge the validity of the plaintiff's employment, as he does, on other grounds.

The power of the board of aldermen, by taking proper legislative procedure, to amend the charter of the city is not challenged. New Haven Charter, §§ 377, 378, 45, 11(7) (1928), §§ 50, 184, 291 (1952); 16 Spec.Laws, p. 817; 17 Spec.Laws, p. 335; p. 1227, § 9; 18 Spec.Laws, p. 512; 23 Spec.Laws, p. 618. It includes, among others, the power to provide by whom, when and in what manner 'any of the officers, boards, directors, commissioners and employees' of the city who are not elected by popular vote shall be appointed, 'their qualifications and the terms and conditions of the tenure of each,' their salaries, and by whom and in what manner they shall be paid, with certain exceptions not pertinent to this case. It also includes the power 'to provide for any new department, bureau or officer as may seem best for the exercise of the powers and to perform the duties given to or imposed upon' the city, and that any or all of the powers exercised by appointive officers, boards or agents may be performed by the board of aldermen in such manner as it may determine. 23 Spec.Laws, p. 619; New Haven Charter § 291 (1952). It is readily apparent that the powers given are exceedingly broad in their scope.

Prior to the adoption of the amendment in December, 1949, the New Haven charter contained provisions relating to the civil service. These were included under the title 'Civil Service Board.' They provided in general for the appointment by the mayor of a board of three citizens who were authorized...

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