It appears the question of whether on the of the old East Haven High School at 200 Tyler Street was binding or not will remain just that — a question.
In November, East Haven's voters of the towb using the facility for community purpose, with education use coming in second and selling the property for condominium use coming in third.
But with the Mayor's Office moving forward with its plans at the town-owned site, Town Attorney Joseph Zullo was expected to provide council members with his legal opinion as to whether or not the referendum's on the town at last night's regularly scheduled meeting.
'Not Properly Authorized'
But Zullo informed the council that instead of specifically focusing on the binding vs non-binding issue, he chose instead to focus on whether or not the Town Council actually had the legal authority to call and hold a referendum in East Haven.
And, after studying the and state statutes regarding referendums, it was his legal opinion that the council did not.
According to Zullo, only the voters have the legal power and authority to call a referendum question in the town of East Haven.
"I'm sorry to report but I don't believe that the referendum that was held in November and I don't believe that that results are binding," Zullo said.
"It was not properly authorize because it was not effected by the residents because they are the only people who have the power," he said.
Home Rule Act
During public comment, however, former Town Attorney — who helped to author the legislation under former Mayor April Capone — was quick to counter that the Town Council did have the legal authority to call and hold a referendum.
And that it's results are, indeed, binding on the town.
"I have to respectfully disagree with the interpretation that was provided to you tonight by Mr. Zullo," Cofrancesco said.
She continued, saying that "if the charter silent on the issue you look to somewhere else" for legal guidance.
Cofrancesco then pointed to a 200-year-old law, called the Home Rule Act, saying it is through that piece of state legislation that the Town Council has the authority to call a referendum.
"And by the way, the only thing you can't have a referendum for is an illegal purpose," she said.
Cofrancesco added that "by the absence of other language," last fall's referendum "was more than advisory this was mandatory."
She pointed out that the question uses the word "shall" as opposed to the word "may."
"And shall makes it mandatory," she said.
No Action Taken
After several residents expressed their frustration at the referendum's results possibly not being heeded by the town, some Town Council members then expressed their frustration at having conflicting opinions on its status.
Town Council Chairman Richard Anania said the board did not intend to move forward on the issue of the site's future use at this time.
"The council is not making any kind of decision tonight," Anania said.
And no action was taken by the council on the referendum or the status of the old high school.
(Editor's Note: This article was edited at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday to clarify that the third option in last fall's referendum was for "condominium use" in general and not specifically for "senior" condominium use, as the Mayor's Office is .)