Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 7, 2015

CT Appeals Court Finds Bias on the Part of Commissioner Based on Statements Made and Finds Commissioner Engaged in Prohibited Ex Parte Communication

Following a denial of Plaintiff’s application to construct a 38-unit residential subdivision, Plaintiff appealed alleging that the commission illegally and arbitrarily predetermined the outcome of the applications, and that the public hearing was motivated by bias and personal animus. The trial court found that Longhi, a member of the commission, had a conflict of interest due the bias against one of the plaintiffs, a former social friend.

In deciding whether the plaintiff waived a claim of bias when he failed to raise it in the commission hearing, the Connecticut appeals court held that the statements made by Longhi that “she wanted Tallarita [plaintiff] to suffer the same fate of denial by the commission that she had suffered,” removed the incident of bias from the waiver rule. The court further found that evidence of bias may be cumulative, that specific evidence of bias is not examined in isolation, and that the comments made after the hearing were an integral part in the denial of the plaintiff’s application. The court concluded by finding that Longhi had an ex parte communication when she met with an official from the Hazardville Water Company about the property in dispute, and the Commission failed to show that the ex parte communication was harmless. Given these reasons, the court fund that Longhi influenced the other members of the commission, and that the plaintiff did not receive the fair hearing to which it was entitled.

Villages, LLC v. Enfield Planning and Zoning Commission, 149 Conn. App. 448 (4/15/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROap/AP149/149AP244.pdf


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