State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) has voted for a significant change to state law that will hold zoning enforcement officers harmless for any civil damages arising out of the professional execution of their official duties. The bill passed on a unanimous and bipartisan vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The change, Duff said, will allow local zoning enforcement officers to be more aggressive in issuing citations for flagrant zoning violations, resulting in more enforcement, adherence to the law and thereby and higher property values.

"I have heard complaints that because of existing state law, some ZEOs are reluctant to fully carry out their duties for fear of facing lawsuits and the potential of paying triple damages out of their own pockets," Duff said. "But that gun-shy attitude doesn't help cities like Norwalk, where in some neighborhoods absentee landlords don't keep their properties front and center. Now we're swinging the pendulum back to reality so ZEOs no longer have to worry about being held personally liable for doing their duty. This change is going to be a big help in reclaiming neighborhoods."

Currently under state law, zoning enforcement officers in Connecticut are liable for triple damages if they issue a citation "frivolously or without probable cause." At the public hearing on the matter in March, testimony was offered that ZEOs are the only municipal officials singled out in state law for such punitive action and it can adversely affect the performance of their duties.

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