FRANCIS SHANNON v. COMMISSIONER OF HOUSING, SC 19562

Judicial District of New Britain

 

     Rental Assistance; Whether Plaintiff Properly Terminated from Rental Assistance Program Pursuant to Regulation Denying Assistance to Registered Sex Offenders; Whether Termination Constituted Improper Retroactive Application of Law; Whether Agency Decision Tainted by Improper Ex Parte Communications.  In 2009, the plaintiff began receiving benefits under a state rental assistance program (RAP) which provides low-income families with a monthly subsidy to pay for housing in privately-owned rental properties.  In May of 2013, the plaintiff was notified that his subsidy was being terminated in accordance with § 17b-812-13 (9) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.  The regulation, which became effective in 2013, authorizes the state Department of Housing to “deny program assistance to an applicant or terminate assistance to a participant [if] a household family member is subject to a registration requirement under a state or federal sex offender registration program.”  The plaintiff is registered as a sex offender as a result of a 1997 conviction.  The Department of Housing upheld the decision terminating the plaintiff’s rent subsidy and the plaintiff appealed to the trial court.  The trial court affirmed the agency’s decision and dismissed the appeal, rejecting the claim that application of the new regulation to the plaintiff constituted an improper retrospective or retroactive application that impermissibly impaired the plaintiff’s vested property rights.  The court found that the regulation was not truly “retroactive” in that it did not require reimbursement of RAP benefits already received and that, because the regulation applies only to persons currently on a sex offender registry, it did not affect anyone based on his or her prior listing on a sex offender registry.  The court also emphasized that the regulation could not be deemed to operate retroactively merely because, here, it was applied in a case arising from conduct that preceded the regulation’s enactment.  The court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the regulation impermissibly impaired his vested property interest in continuing to receive RAP benefits in violation of his right to substantive due process.  The court found that, while the plaintiff had a property interest in continuing in the program, the regulation survived the rational basis scrutiny that is applied to substantive due process claims that do not implicate fundamental rights.  The court found that there was a rational basis for the regulation because the Department of Housing could reasonably have concluded that sound fiscal and public policy allowed for allocating scarce RAP resources to those applicants who are not convicted sex offenders.  The plaintiff appeals, claiming that application of the regulation to terminate his participation in the RAP constituted an impermissible retroactive application of the law and that an administrative agency such as the Department of Housing lacks the authority to promulgate retroactive laws.  The plaintiff also claims that the trial court wrongly rejected his claims that the agency’s final decision was rendered without a hearing in violation of his due process rights and that the agency’s decision was tainted as a result of improper ex parte communications.