TOWN OF MARLBOROUGH v. AFSCME, COUNCIL 4, LOCAL 818-052,
Judicial District of Hartford
Arbitration; Municipalities; Labor; Whether Arbitration Panel Improperly Disregarded General Statutes § 9-187 (a) when it Ordered the Reinstatement of Plaintiff Town's Assessor, who was Discharged After Board of Selectmen Decided not to Reappoint her. In 2007, a newly elected board of selectmen of the town of Marlborough decided not to reappoint the town's assessor, Emily Chaponis, and, consequently, the town discharged her. The defendant union filed a grievance on behalf of Chaponis, arguing that the town's termination of Chaponis' employment violated the collective bargaining agreement that the town had entered into with the union. The agreement, which covered the position of assessor, provided that "[a]ny disciplinary action shall be applied for just cause." The union alleged that Chaponis' discharge was not based on just cause. The dispute was referred to an arbitration panel, which found in favor of the union and directed the town to reinstate Chaponis to the position of assessor. The town filed an application to vacate the arbitration award, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the town argued that the trial court improperly denied its application to vacate because the arbitration award constituted a manifest disregard of the law. It maintained that, as an appointed officer, Chaponis was properly discharged after the board of selectmen chose not to reappoint her when her term in office expired pursuant to General Statutes § 9-187 (a), which provides, in part, that "[w]hen not otherwise prescribed by law, the terms of those town officers appointed by the board of selectmen shall expire on the termination date of the term of the board of selectmen appointing such officers." The Appellate Court (130 Conn. App. 556) rejected the town's claim, concluding that the arbitration panel's decision did not constitute a manifest disregard of the law. It reasoned that § 9-187 (a) does not expressly apply to assessors and that, instead, it refers to "town officers" without defining that term. The court further emphasized that there never has been a determination by an appellate court as to whether an assessor is a town officer. It also opined that the panel did not simply ignore the applicability of § 9-187 (a), but rather it merely decided that the statute did not apply under the facts of this case. The court added that, even if the panel misconstrued § 9-187 (a), a mere misconstruction of the law does not constitute a manifest disregard of the law. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court's decision was proper.