Legal opinion steadfast on proposed ordinance

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BEACON FALLS — For the second time in seven months the Board of Selectmen received a legal opinion on a proposed addition to an ordinance. That opinion didn’t change the second time around.

Last year, Selectman Michael Krenesky proposed revisions to an ordinance that would add language stating taxpayers who outstanding taxes will not be considered as a bidder or awarded a contract for any town-issued or town-authorized projects as either a primary contractor or subcontractor. The existing ordinance states no taxpayer in Beacon Falls who owes outstanding taxes will be issued a building permit, septic installation permit or water hook-up permit.

In July, Town Attorney Fred Stanek told the board his legal opinion was the added language went against state statutes. At the time, Krenesky withdrew the proposal so he could look into it further.

In October, Krenesky presented the board a request for bids from Waterbury that stated anyone who owes back taxes to the city will be ineligible to bid. In light of the stipulations Waterbury placed on bidders, Krenesky resubmitted the proposed ordinance change.

Stanek weighed in on the topic again in a letter to the board. In the letter, which was discussed at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Stanek states the reason Waterbury is allowed to put that language in its request for bids is that the city has a charter that allows it to do that.

Beacon Falls doesn’t have a town charter.

“We operate under [state] statutes and ordinances,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said. “So there is nothing in the statutes or anything in the ordinances we have currently that allows us to go forward.”

According to state statutes, Stanek wrote in the letter, there are six reasons why a person or company could be disqualified from the bidding process, including a willful failure to perform with the terms of one or more contracts, a willful violation of a public contract or transaction, and conviction or admission of the violation of state or federal law for activates such as embezzlement, forgery, and bribery.

Stanek stated the statutes don’t say that being delinquent on taxes is grounds for disqualification.

Stanek wrote his legal opinion is the ordinance “would only be valid if the causes for disqualification from bidding are those as set forth in Connecticut General Statutes … and not for failure to pay taxes, fees, or fines.”

Bielik felt the letter settled the issue.

“It seems, upon my reading of this, is that the opinion of the attorney as it stands is that the ordinance should not go forward in its current state,” Bielik said.

Krenesky said he wanted time to look the letter over before deciding whether to accept the attorney’s opinion.

“I am going to take a closer look at the word ‘transaction.’ To me paying taxes is what you do as a responsible member of town. I may be stretching it a bit but I think, like anything else in the law, it comes down to interpretive language and how you want to look at it,” Krenesky said.

The board expects to take the issue up again at its February meeting.