EDWARD BATESON et al. v. GARY WEDDLE, SC 18720
Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport
Quo Warranto; Inland Wetlands; Whether Taxpayers Have Standing to Bring a Quo Warranto Action; Whether Defendant’s Appointment as Wetlands Compliance Officer for a Specific Project was Illegal. In 1999, Fairfield began the Metro Center project, which involves the development of a thirty-five acre parcel of land as a train station and commuter parking lot. In March, 2008, the town's conservation commission, acting as the inland wetlands agency, appointed Gary Weddle as wetlands compliance officer specifically for the Metro Center project. Weddle was to report directly to the inland wetlands agency. The plaintiffs are town taxpayers, and they filed a writ of quo warranto, alleging that Weddle's appointment as wetlands compliance officer violated the town charter. Weddle moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the plaintiffs could not establish standing to bring this quo warranto action solely based on their status as taxpayers. In support of his position, Weddle cited West Farms Mall, LLC v. Town of West Hartford, 279 Conn. 1 (2006), and Andross v. Town of West Hartford, 285 Conn. 309 (2008), which hold that taxpayers, in order to establish standing, must allege and demonstrate that the allegedly improper municipal conduct caused them to suffer some pecuniary or other great injury. In response, the plaintiffs asserted that a taxpayer's right to bring a quo warranto action was expressly recognized by the Supreme Court in State ex rel. City of Waterbury v. Martin, 46 Conn. 479 (1878). Weddle, however, argued that the language in Martin indicating that a taxpayer has standing to bring a quo warranto action was dicta or, alternatively, that Martin was no longer good law in light of West Farms Mall and Andross. The trial court rejected Weddle's arguments, determining that the relevant language in Martin was not dicta and that Martin had not been overruled. It explained that the test for taxpayer standing set forth in West Farms Mall and Andross was only applicable to cases seeking injunctive or declaratory relief. Thereafter, the court granted the plaintiffs’ writ of quo warranto, ruling that, because the position of wetlands compliance officer was a “singular” position under the town’s inland wetlands regulations that was already filled when Weddle was appointed, Weddle’s appointment was illegal, null and void. Additionally, the court ruled that Weddle’s hiring violated the town charter, in that it failed to comply with the charter’s requirement that the wetlands compliance officer be subject to the general supervision of the conservation director. The Supreme Court will review the trial court’s decision.