CHARLES D. GIANETTI
ADAM DUNSBY ET AL.
Submitted on briefs March 19, 2018
to recover damages for the defendants' alleged wrongful
denial of certain tax relief, brought to the Superior Court
in the judicial district of Fairfield and tried to the court,
Hon. Edward F. Stodolink, judge trial referee; judgment for
the defendants, from which the plaintiff appealed to this
court. Improper form of judgment; judgment directed.
Charles D. Gianetti, self-represented, the appellant
(plaintiff) filed a brief.
V. Gelderman filed a brief for the appellees (defendants).
Keller, Elgo and Bright, Js.
self-represented plaintiff, Charles D. Gianetti, appeals from
the judgment of the Superior Court rendered in favor of the
defendants, Adam Dunsby, Robert Lesser, and Scott Centrella,
in this action concerning the plaintiff's eligibility for
tax relief under a municipal ordinance. On appeal, the
plaintiff raises a bevy of challenges to the factual findings
and evidentiary determinations of the court. In response, the
defendants contend, inter alia, that the court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction to entertain the present action. We agree
with the defendants and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of
the court and remand the case with direction to dismiss the
plaintiff's action for lack of subject matter
appeal concerns the ‘‘2009 Tax Relief For The
Elderly Ordinance'' (ordinance) enacted by the town
of Easton, the stated purpose of which is to assist
‘‘elderly homeowners with a portion of the costs
of property (real estate) taxation.'' The ordinance
specifies various criteria for relief thereunder. The
determination as to whether an applicant's
‘‘income qualifies for tax relief, '' as
well as whether the ‘‘application is bona fide,
'' is made by the Easton tax assessor (assessor)
pursuant to §§ 14 and 15 of the ordinance. The
ordinance also provides a mechanism by which an applicant who
is denied relief may appeal the assessor's determination.
Section 14 (g) states in relevant part that
‘‘[a]ny person refused relief for any reason may
appeal to the Board of Selectmen whose decision shall be
April 23, 2009, the plaintiff filed an application for tax
relief pursuant to the ordinance. After receiving notice that
his application had been denied, the plaintiff appealed to
the Easton Board of Selectmen (board), on which the
defendants served, in accordance with § 14 (g) of the
ordinance. Following a hearing, the board sent a letter to
the plaintiff, in which the board indicated that it was
prepared to deny the plaintiff's appeal. That letter
further advised the plaintiff that, if he had any additional
information or documentation regarding his eligibility for
tax relief under the ordinance, the board would reconsider
its determination. When the plaintiff did not respond in any
manner, the board sent him another letter informing him that
his appeal was denied.
complaint dated August 31, 2011, the plaintiff commenced a
mandamus action against the members of the board stemming
from their denial of his appeal. Following a hearing, the
court, Hon. Michael Hartmere, judge trial referee,
rendered a judgment of dismissal in favor of the defendants,
concluding that the plaintiff had ‘‘failed to
establish the essential elements of [his] mandamus
action.'' Gianetti v. Herrmann, Superior
Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Docket No.
CV-11-5029623-S (October 30, 2014). The plaintiff did not
appeal from that judgment.
plaintiff commenced the present action against the defendants
on June 22, 2015, approximately six years after the denial of
his tax relief appeal by the board. The operative complaint,
the plaintiff's August 3, 2015 amended complaint,
contains one count titled ‘‘Wrongful Denial of
Relief Pursuant to the Senior Tax Relief Program
Ordinance.'' In that count, the plaintiff alleged
that although he had applied for tax relief pursuant to the
ordinance and satisfied the requirements thereof, the
assessor ‘‘refused the tax relief.'' The
plaintiff further alleged that the board, in denying his
appeal, ‘‘erroneously and wrongfully denied the
relief provided by the [ordinance], and the plaintiff has
been harmed thereby.''
filing their answer and special defenses,  the defendants
filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the court
‘‘does not have subject matter jurisdiction in
this matter because there is no statutory right or
authorization to appeal the [board's] decision to the
Superior Court.'' The court, Radcliffe, J.,
heard argument on the motion on August 22, 2016, and
thereafter denied the motion to dismiss. The defendants filed
a motion for reargument or reconsideration of that
determination, which the court denied. In addition, the
defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that
‘‘there are no genuine issues of material fact to
be tried with respect to the [plaintiff's]
complaint.'' In denying that motion, the court in its
order clarified that ‘‘relief in this case is not
sought nor can it be awarded based upon a claim of mandamus.
The only issue here is the action of the [board] in denying
the [plaintiff's request for] senior citizen tax relief
for the year 2009.''
day hearing on that issue was held before the court, Hon.
Edward F. Stodolink, judge trial referee, on January 5,
2017. At that hearing, the plaintiff introduced certain
documents into evidence, including copies of the ordinance,
his April 23, 2009 application for tax relief, and his 2008
federal income tax return. The plaintiff also testified
briefly at that hearing. During his testimony, a colloquy
ensued as to the precise nature of the plaintiff's
action. The court at that time observed that,
‘‘[a]s I understand it, we're testing the
propriety of an administrative procedure of the town of
Easton for the year 2009; correct?'' In response, the
defendants' attorney stated: ‘‘Testing the
propriety? I guess that's correct, Your Honor.''
The plaintiff then informed the court that his action
pertained to ‘‘the erroneousness of'' the