BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWN OF STRATFORD ET AL.
CITY OF BRIDGEPORT ET AL.
January 31, 2019
for, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that the
defendants' request to charge certain tuition to certain
school districts for nonresident students who attend certain
magnet schools is erroneous and unlawful, and for other
relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of Fairfield, where the Board of Education of the
Town of Monroe was added as a party plaintiff; thereafter,
the court, Bellis, J., granted the
defendants' motions to dismiss and rendered judgment
thereon, from which the plaintiffs appealed to this court.
L. Healy, with whom, on the brief, was Norman A. Pattis, for
the appellants (plaintiffs).
E. Urban, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the
brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and George
Jepsen, former attorney general, for the appellees (defendant
State Board of Education et al.)
R. Mitola, associate city attorney, for the appellees (named
defendant et al.).
Keller, Prescott and Harper, Js.
plaintiffs, the Board of Education of the Town of Stratford,
James Feehan,  the Board of Education of the Town of
Trumbull, and the Board of Education of the Town of Monroe,
appeal from the judgment of the trial court granting the
motions to dismiss filed by the defendants, the State Board
of Education (state board); the Commissioner of Education
(commissioner); the Board of Education of the City of
Bridgeport (Bridgeport board); the city of Bridgeport (city);
Joseph Ganim, the mayor of the city; and Aresta Johnson, the
interim superintendent of the city's
schools. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the
trial court erred by (1) dismissing counts one, two, three,
and four of their complaint against the state defendants for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction for failing to exhaust
their administrative remedies, and (2) dismissing count six,
a civil theft claim against the Bridgeport defendants, for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction for failing to exhaust
their administrative remedies. For the reasons discussed
herein, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
their verified complaint dated March 16, 2017, the plaintiffs
alleged the following facts. The city, the Bridgeport board,
and Johnson operate two interdistrict magnet schools,
Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School (Fairchild
Wheeler) and Interdistrict Discovery Magnet Elementary School
(Discovery). The plaintiff boards are required, pursuant to
General Statutes § 10-220d, to permit operators of
interdistrict magnet schools to recruit students from their
districts to attend magnet schools in other districts.
Fairfield Wheeler and Discovery, which began operations in
2013, currently serve children from the plaintiffs'
districts, in addition to others.
Wheeler and Discovery, heretofore, have been operated
exclusively with state funds. During the 2016-2017 school
year, the parties learned that the state would reduce its
grants to these magnet schools by approximately $500, 000. On
June 30, 2016, Frances Rabinowitz, the predecessor to Johnson
as interim superintendent of the city's schools, wrote a
letter to the commissioner requesting permission for the city
to bill neighboring districts $3000 a year for each
nonresident student who attended the magnet schools. By
letter dated August 31, 2016, the commissioner granted this
request. The plaintiffs alleged that the commissioner's
approval of the request to charge outside school districts
would result in approximately $1, 818, 000 in revenue for the
city's public school system. This revenue would result in
the school system receiving $1, 215, 000 from the plaintiffs
alone, which is $715, 000 more than is required to replenish
the $500, 000 cutback in state funding.
the plaintiffs alleged that the Bridgeport board commingles
its operating accounts with the city's general municipal
operating accounts. They alleged that this commingling
permits the Bridgeport public school district and the city to
convert or misappropriate the moneys supplied by the
plaintiffs for the purpose of interdistrict magnet school
operation to pay for nonmagnet school and noneducational
expenses, such as general municipal operating expenses.
plaintiffs set forth six counts in their complaint. They
claimed that (1) the commissioner did not apply the criteria
set forth in General Statutes § 10-264l (m)
(count one); (2) § 10-264l (m) (2) violates
principles of due process as set forth in article first,
§§ 1, 2, 8, 10, 11, 18, and 20, of the Connecticut
constitution (count two); (3) § 10-264l (m) (2)
exceeds the powers implicitly and explicitly granted to the
General Assembly in article eighth, § 1, of the
Connecticut constitution (count three); (4) §
10-264l (m) (2) violates the plaintiffs' right
to home rule in violation of article tenth, § 1, of the
Connecticut constitution (count four); (5) unjust enrichment
(count five); and (6) civil theft as to the Bridgeport
defendants (count six).
March 24, 2017, the state defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, inter alia, counts one through four of the
plaintiffs' complaint for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction on the basis that the plaintiffs failed to
exhaust their administrative remedies contained in General
Statutes § 4-176. On April 12, 2017, the Bridgeport
defendants also filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs'
complaint in its entirety on the basis that the court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims
against them. After receiving memoranda of law in support of
and in opposition to the motions, the court heard oral
argument regarding both motions to dismiss on April 24, 2017.
memorandum of decision dated May 10, 2017, the court granted
the state defendants' motion to dismiss counts one, two,
three, and four of the plaintiffs' complaint for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction on the basis that the plaintiffs
failed to exhaust their administrative remedies pursuant to
§ 4-176 prior to commencing the present action. With
respect to count five, the dismissal of which is not
challenged in this appeal, the court acknowledged that the
plaintiffs had conceded that the plaintiffs' unjust
enrichment claim against the state defendants was barred by
the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
separate memorandum of decision dated May 23, 2017, the court
recognized that the Bridgeport defendants, in their
memorandum of law in support of their motion to dismiss, had
expressly adopted the same arguments that had been set forth
by the state defendants with respect to counts one, two,
three, and four.
in granting the Bridgeport defendants' motion to dismiss
with respect to these counts, the court adopted the same
reasoning concluding that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust
their administrative remedies contained in § 4-176. With
respect to counts five and six as alleged against the
Bridgeport defendants, the court similarly concluded that it
lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their claims because
the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative
remedies. This appeal followed.
preliminary matter, we begin by setting forth the principles
of law governing our standard of review. ‘‘In an
appeal from the granting of a motion to dismiss on the ground
of subject matter jurisdiction, this court's review is
plenary.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
Walenski v. Connecticut State Employees Retirement
Commission, 185 Conn.App. 457, 464, 197 A.3d 443, cert.
denied, 330 Conn. 951, 197 A.3d 390 (2018). This court must
decide whether the trial court's
‘‘conclusions are legally and logically correct
and find support in the facts that appear in the record. . .
. It is a familiar principle that a court which exercises a
limited and statutory jurisdiction is without jurisdiction to
act unless it does so under the precise circumstances and in
the manner particularly prescribed by the enabling
legislation.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
a . . . court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a
pretrial motion to dismiss, it must consider the allegations
of the complaint in their most favorable light. . . . In this
regard, a court must take the facts to be those alleged in
the complaint, including those facts necessarily implied from
the allegations, construing them in a manner most favorable
to the pleader. . . . Further, in addition to admitting all
facts well pleaded, the motion to dismiss invokes any record
that accompanies the motion, including supporting affidavits
that contain undisputed facts.'' (Citation omitted;
internal quotation marks omitted.) Metropolitan District
v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 180
Conn.App. 478, 485, 184 A.3d 287, cert. denied, 328 Conn.
937, 184 A.3d 267 (2018).
appeal concerns the proper application of the exhaustion
doctrine. ‘‘It is a settled principle of
administrative law that if an adequate administrative remedy
exists, it must be exhausted before the Superior Court will
obtain jurisdiction to act in the matter.'' (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) Stepney, LLC v. Fairfield,
263 Conn. 558, 563, 821 A.2d 725 (2003). In other words,
‘‘a trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over an action that seeks a remedy that could be provided
through an administrative proceeding, unless and until that
remedy has been sought in the administrative forum.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.)Republican Party of
Connecticut v. Merrill, 307 Conn. 470, 477, 55 A.3d 251
(2012). In the absence of exhaustion of that remedy, the
action must be dismissed. Piteau v. Board of
Education, 300 Conn. 667, 678, 15 A.3d 1067 (2011).
Thus, ‘‘where a statute has established a