In an “unpublished” decision in the case of Carney v. Town of Framingham (pdf) (further appellate review denied), a panel of the Appeals Court ruled that the statutory 60-day period for filing a certiorari appeal starts on the date the administrative agency takes its “last administrative action” – in this case a vote – not when the agency later reduces its decision to writing.
M.G.L. c. 249, § 4 provides that a certiorari petition must be filed within 60 days after the “proceeding complained of.” In Carney, the Appeals Court panel noted that this term refers to the “last administrative action” taken by the agency. On June 4, 2008, the Framingham Conservation Commission voted to amend a previously issued enforcement order. The amended order issued on June 6, 2008. On August 5, 2008 – 60 days after the written order, but 62 days after the commission’s vote – the plaintiff filed its certiorari appeal in Superior Court. The court granted the town’s motion to dismiss on the ground that the appeal was untimely, holding that it was the commission’s vote – not its written decision two days later – that was the commission’s “last administrative action” triggering the statutory appeal period.
This decision, which was issued pursuant to the Appeals Court’s Rule 1:28 (pdf), and therefore is of limited precedential value, has particular relevance to wetland orders of conditions issued under local by-laws. Frequently, conservation commissions will issue a written decision days or weeks after voting on a matter. Interested parties should monitor agency proceedings closely, and be sure that they appeal within 60 days of the board’s “last administrative action” – which may very well be its vote.