Selectmen take vote to assure ZBA of legal protections
DARIEN — In an unusual move, the selectmen granted indemnification for the Zoning Board of Appeals over fears of a possible lawsuit.
The decision was unanimous and protects the ZBA from claims members acted in bad faith or reckless conduct, in regards to two pending appeals at 23 Patricia Lane.
Counsel for the town reviewed the video tapes of all public hearings and deliberations and came to the conclusion the members acted in good faith. There was no evidence found members of the board acted recklessly.
According to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, there is an application pending before the Zoning Board of Appeals and the person bringing the application is making legal claims against the commission itself for its decisions.
“So the members of the commission are concerned if this individual sues the commission, or the individuals individually,” she said.
The members of the Zoning Board of Appeals are volunteers and as such the Board of Selectmen wanted to make sure that they were protected by the town’s indemnification agreement.
The agreement also ensures that if any legal proceedings arise from the four meetings the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals will be provided counsel.
“The gist of it is we want to make sure the commissioners in their endeavors are safe and able to do their job without being sued,” said Stevenson.
The indemnification, which secures members against legal responsibility for their actions, was limited to the actions in the Zoning Board of Appeals’ meetings on Jan. 17, April 5, April 18 and April 25.
Stevenson said the indemnification agreement is purposefully very narrow.
“It extends to those four particular meetings and it excludes any willful violations,” she said.
In the indemnification agreement it states there were two appeals pending before the Board of Appeals regarding the work being done on Patricia Lane. According to the agreement a further allegation was made that the Department staff inappropriately signed the certificate of occupancy.
In the indemnification agreement it stated there had been a threat of legal action which may include a claim of Ultra vires acts, acts that lie beyond the authority of a corporation to perform. This could be due to property lines being allegedly crossed.
Further in the agreement it states the town has an obligation under Connecticut General Statutes to indemnify and hold harmless members of any board, commission, committee or agency of any municipality assuming such person acted in good faith and within the scope of their official functions and duties