TOWN ATTORNEY .JANIS M. SMALL ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY GERALD E. P'ARRELL, SR. CORPORATION COUNSEl. ADAM MANTZARIS DEPARTMENT OF LAW WAl.LlNGFORD TOWN HAl.l. 4S SOUTH MAIN STREET WAl.LlNGFORD, CT 06492
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Candidates for Municipal Office
Janis M. Small, Town Attorney
Chairman Brodinsky has raised an issue regarding whether a candidate may advocate a position on Charter Revision at the Candidates Forum. He questioned whether Connecticut General Statutes §9-369b(a), which prohibits the expenditure of public funds for the advocacy of a position on a referendum, applies to this Forum. The expenditure of public funds, in this case, is the use of Town Hall and the expenditure for the government television. While Chairman Brodinsky has limited his question to the Mayor's right to advocate a position, there is no legal distinction among candidates under §9-369b. The central issue is the expenditure of public funds. I have reviewed decisions of the State Elections Enforcement Commission and have spoken to attorneys on staff. The attorneys were of assistance but cannot bind the Commission. Further, be advised that my opinion is in no way binding on the Commission. There does not appear to be a Commission decision directly on point. However, based upon my review and discussion, it is my opinion that a candidate may discuss and debate the referendum issue at the Forum. The Commission has held that the expenditure of public funds to hold/air a meeting at which a referendum is discussed and positions are advocated is not a violation of §9 369b(a). (File No. 2009-03; copy attached) While this case does not involve a candidates forum, I know of no reason why the same logic would not apply. '
In my discussions with the staff attorneys, they indicated that while stating your own opinion is likely permitted, specifically recommending how voters should vote should probably be avoided. You may wish to consider this advisement.