Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 16, 2017

CT Court Notes That Not Every Conceivable Interest Disqualifies a Zoning Official – Only Those Where There is a Likelihood of Corruption or Favoritism

The Darien Planning and Zoning Commission considered the application of Darien Athletic Foundation, Inc. (DAF) to make changes to sports fields at Darien High School. Before the Commission made its decision, Plaintiff objected to the participation of commission member John Sini because he was a prior spokesperson for the Darien Junior Football League (DJFL) and a founding member of DAF. Despite this objection, the Commission ultimately granted the application with Sini’s participation as a commission member. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that application’s approval was invalid due to Sini’s conflict of interest. The court held that Sini’s previous affiliations with DAF and DJFL did not disqualify him because the record showed that his “open mindedness was not imperiled and that he considered whether the application conformed with the regulations in a fair and impartial manner.” Additionally, there was no evidence that Sini had a financial or pecuniary interest in the outcome of the application.

As such, the court reasoned that not every “conceivable interest” is sufficient to disqualify a zoning official. If this were true, many individuals, especially those who are active in their communities, would not be able to participate on zoning commissions. Rather, courts must determine whether an interest disqualifies an official on a case-by-case basis, requiring a review of whether such interests indicate “the likelihood of corruption or favoritism.”

Michalski v. Planning & Zoning Comm’n of Town of Darien, 2015 WL 5976190 (Conn. Super. Ct. 9/14/2015).

 


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