Rustici v. Malloy, No. (X02) CV 97-0164460S (CT 7/1/2004), No. (X02) CV 97-0164460S

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtSchuman
Docket NumberNo. (X02) CV 97-0164460S
PartiesPeter Rustici et al. v. Dannel Malloy et al.
Decision Date01 July 2004

Page 1

Unpublished Opinion

Peter Rustici et al.
Dannel Malloy et al.
No. (X02) CV 97-0164460S
Superior Court of Connecticut
Judicial District of Waterbury
Complex Litigation Docket at Waterbury
July 1, 2004


Like several other Connecticut municipalities, Stamford has a more densely populated area, which includes a business district, known as the city, and a larger, more rural area known as the town. (Revised Third Amended Complaint (complaint), count one, ¶14.) Since 1949, both the city and the town of Stamford have been governed by a single charter. The charter consolidated the town and city governments into a single organizational framework, but maintained dual systems of fire protection to some extent. (Complaint, count one, ¶¶16, 18.)1 The present case arises from this dual system of fire protection.

The plaintiffs are alleged to be taxpayers, firefighters, and a firefighters' collective bargaining representative from Long Ridge, which is an area in the town section of Stamford. See also note 6 infra. The plaintiffs have sued the city and three individuals: Dannel Malloy, the mayor of Stamford since 1995; John Byrne, who was the city's director of pubic safety, health and welfare; and James Haselkamp, who was city's director of labor relations. (Complaint, count one ¶¶8-11; Malloy affidavit, ¶2.) Also named as a defendant, pursuant to General Statutes §52-101, is the Long Ridge Fire Company, Inc. (the company).2 Located in the Long Ridge section, this defendant is alleged to be a "mixed" fire company, comprised of both volunteer and professional firefighters. (Complaint, count one, ¶2.) The plaintiffs seek no relief against the company because its interests allegedly coincide with those of the plaintiffs. Instead, the company has filed a cross-complaint against the remaining defendants (collectively "the city").

Count one of the complaint and cross-complaint allege violations of the city charter. Counts two and three of the complaint and counts two through five of the cross-complaint allege various due process violations. Count four of the complaint alleges interference with contractual relations, while count six of the cross-complaint alleges conversion. The city moves for summary judgment on all counts.


The defendants initially challenge the plaintiffs' standing on count one. The plaintiffs suggest that the defendants' challenge comes too late. Although standing normally arises on a motion to dismiss, the court can and does treat the standing arguments in the summary judgment papers as addressing a dismissal issue. See Cadle Co. v. D'Addario, 268 Conn. 441, 445 n.5, 844 A.2d 836 (2004). Thus, the court must take as true all well-pleaded facts unless controverted by admissible evidence. See Barde v. Board of Trustees of Regional Community Colleges, 207 Conn. 59, 62, 539 A.2d 1000 (1988).

In its November 7, 2003 ruling concerning a prior version of the complaint and cross-complaint, the court found that the company had standing in the classical sense and stated that it could not "conclude with certainty that this case involves taxpayer standing and that the company lacks such standing." (November 7, 2003 ruling at 12, citing Board of Pardons v. Freedom of Information Commission, 210 Conn. 646, 649, 556 A.2d 1020 (1989), and Seymour v. Region One Board of Education, 261 Conn. 475, 489-92, 803 A.2d 318 (2002)). The court, however, has not ruled on the plaintiffs' and the company's standing to raise the claims alleged in the latest revision of their complaint and cross-complaint, which is dated January 21, 2004. In any case, because standing goes to the subject matter of the court, the court can address the issue at any time, and is required to dismiss the action whenever it finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Park City Hospital v. Commission on Hospitals & Health Care, 210 Conn. 697, 702-03, 556 A.2d 602 (1989); Stroiney v. Crescent Lake Tax District, 205 Conn. 290, 294, 533 A.2d 208 (1987); Practice Book §10-33.3 Accordingly, the court will address the standing of both the plaintiffs and the company.4

Our courts "have long recognized the capacity of taxpayers of towns and cities to challenge the legality of the actions of their municipal officers by seeking injunctive relief against such action." Alarm Applications Co. v. Simsbury Volunteer Fire Co., 179 Conn. 541, 548, 427 A.2d 822 (1980). "Absent the existence of another special relationship, . . . however, [our Supreme Court] has not recognized the capacity of an individual or a private corporation that has not alleged taxpayers' status to maintain an action challenging the propriety of the conduct of a municipal corporation." (Footnote omitted.) Id. Thus, a plaintiff who is not a taxpayer may not challenge the actions of a municipal corporation unless there is a separate legal relationship, such as being a bondholder or contractor, that provides the basis for standing. Id., 548 n.3.

Furthermore, "a party's status as a taxpayer, without a demonstration by him of some tangible injury, does not by itself confer standing upon him when the defendant is a municipal corporation." Id. "Thus, our cases in this area have required two conditions for the maintenance of actions seeking to challenge municipal conduct: (1) the plaintiff must be a taxpayer of the defendant municipal entity; and (2) the plaintiff must allege and demonstrate that the allegedly improper municipal conduct causes him to suffer some pecuniary or other great injury." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 549. The alleged injury to the taxpayer has generally been demonstrated by evidence that the municipality has either directly increased taxes or appropriated moneys from local funds. See Sadloski v. Manchester, 235 Conn. 637, 648, 668 A.2d 1314 (1995).

Plaintiffs Joseph Berg, Ralph Nau, Robert Bennett, and Gunther Schaller are alleged to be residents of and taxpayers from the Long Ridge area of Stamford. (Complaint, count one, ¶5.) They allege that the defendants increased their taxes in order to pay for the stationing of engine six at the Long Ridge Station during the years 1997-99, that fire protection suffered during those years, and that, due to the actions of the defendants, the company is now on the brink of financial dissolution. (Complaint, count one, ¶¶36, 39, 41, 49, 54.) Plaintiffs Nau, Bennett, and Schaller also allege that they are company firefighters who are owed large amounts of salary that the company cannot pay because of the defendants' actions. (Complaint, count one, ¶¶1, 54.) These allegations suffice to confer taxpayer standing on these plaintiffs to seek injunctive relief against the defendants for violations of the city charter, as alleged in count one. See Sadloski v. Manchester, supra, 235 Conn. 648; Alarm Applications Co. v. Simsbury Volunteer Fire Co., supra, 179 Conn. 548.5

Plaintiffs Peter Rustici, Donald Berg, Kevin Re, Louise Keenan, James Chevalier, and Long Ridge Paid Drivers Association are not alleged to be taxpayers of the Long Ridge section of Stamford. Instead, these individuals are generally alleged to be professional fire fighters employed by the company. (Complaint, count one, ¶1.) The Long Ridge Paid Drivers Association is alleged to be the collective bargaining representative of the professional employees of the company. (Complaint, count one, ¶4.) While these plaintiffs can raise constitutional, tort, or contract violations to the extent they have "another special legal relationship" with the city, they cannot, as nontaxpayers, raise charter violations. See Alarm Applications Co. v. Simsbury Volunteer Fire Co., supra, 179 Conn. 548 & n.3. Accordingly, these plaintiffs lack standing on count one.6

The same is true of the company. It does not allege to be a taxpayer. The affidavits filed after argument of this motion confirm that it is a not-for-profit corporation that does not pay property taxes. See General Statutes §7-314(b). It does not claim to be a government agency, even if that status would confer standing.7 There is no other basis for it to sue the city concerning charter violations.8 Therefore, the company lacks standing on count one of the cross-complaint.9


The focus of the allegations concerning charter violations is, therefore, count one of the plaintiffs' January 21, 2004 Revised Third Amended Complaint. As its name suggests, the complaint has experienced many iterations. The last two were ordered by the court in an effort to clarify what the court had previously labeled as "a model of confusion." (Ruling on Pending Motions, November 7, 2003, p. 2.) The present complaint does not completely accomplish that result. Although now limited to charter violations, count one still encompasses several causes of action. The city appropriately pointed out this deficiency in its objection to the present complaint and suggested the need for a request to revise. See Practice Book §10-35(3). The court overruled the city's objection in an effort to get the merits of this case, which has had a tortuous seven-year history: See Rustici v. Malloy, 60 Conn.App. 47, 758 A.2d 424, cert. denied, 254 Conn. 952, 762 A.2d 903 (2000). However, the court will now have to confront the difficulties of interpreting this overburdened count.


As best as the court can decipher, count one makes out two general claims. The first centers on the alleged physical "takeover" of station 2, which is one of the company's two fire stations. The plaintiffs allege that, on February 9, 1996, the city ordered a city fire engine and sixteen city firefighters assigned to station 2. Allegedly, this move adversely affected fire protection in the Long Ridge area as well as the employment status of the regular station 2 personnel. On May 29, 1998, the court, Leheny. J., issued a temporary injunction ordering the city to remove its equipment and personnel and to appropriate...

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