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CLARK v. MEEHAN (04/17/51)

April 17, 1951

CLARK
v.
MEEHAN, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 102, Jan. T., 1951, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 2 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1950, No. 6509, in case of Joseph S. Clark, Jr., Controller of City and County of Philadelphia v. Austin Meehan, Sheriff of County of Philadelphia. Judgment affirmed.

COUNSEL

William B. Farran, for appellant.

Joseph S. Clark, Jr., in propria persona, with him Walter J. Brobyn and Morris M. Pickholtz, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Jones, Bell, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Drew

[ 367 Pa. Page 167]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW

Joseph S. Clark, Jr., acting in his official capacity as Controller of the City and County of Philadelphia, seeks, by this suit in mandamus to compel Austin Meehan, Sheriff of that County, to produce for audit all books and records of monies received by him in his official capacity during the year 1949. The Sheriff filed an answer in which he averred that all books containing records of county funds had been submitted to the Controller and that the books to which he now sought access concerned money in which neither the city nor the county had any interest. Judgment on the pleadings was entered for the Controller and the Sheriff then brought this appeal.

The records which the Controller seeks to examine concern collections from litigants in civil suits for mileage, notary fees, deposits covering costs of judgment sales and other similar items.All of those funds, the Sheriff avers, are paid to process servers, notaries public and other persons to cover necessary expenses. It is argued that any overplus is returnable not to the county but to the litigants and for that reason the Controller has neither the power nor the duty to audit those records.

A majority of this Court is of the opinion that such an argument cannot be countenanced in view of the express statutory authority granted to the Controller. The Act of March 31, 1876, P.L. 13, § 10, provides: " All books, records, papers and accounts kept by any of the officers named or included in this act [the sheriff is so included], shall be open to the inspection of the county controller...." (Italics added.) The Act of June 27, 1895, P.L. 403, § 4, states: "The said controller shall have a general supervision and control... of the accounts and official acts of all officers or other persons who shall collect, receive or distribute

[ 367 Pa. Page 168]

    the public moneys of the county, or who shall be charged with the management or custody thereof, and he may, at any time, require from any of them, in writing, an account of all moneys, or property which may have come into their control..."

These statutes make it clear that the Controller has broad supervisory powers over the fiscal affairs of the county and in order to exercise those powers properly he is given the right and duty to examine all accounts kept by county officers acting in their official capacity. Since it is not disputed that these accounts are of funds collected by the Sheriff because of his public office and as an adjunct to it, they are subject to audit by the Controller.

In Lackawanna County's Appeals, 296 Pa. 271, 278, 145 A. 843, a somewhat similar situation arose. There the county treasurer failed to show in his returns to the controller certain money received by him which he claimed to be his by custom and usage. The controller prepared his report on the basis of the returns received. Upon exceptions to the controller's report by the county commissioners we held that "The treasurer should have specified... [in his returns to the controller] all the money received, and, if he believed any of it belonged to him, should have claimed ...


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