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COMMONWEALTH v. LAWTON (11/15/51)

November 15, 1951

COMMONWEALTH
v.
LAWTON



COUNSEL

Leonard Turner, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Bruce R. Wright, Asst. Deputy Atty. Gen., Robert L. Kunzig, Deputy Atty. Gen., Robert E. Woodside, Atty. Gen., for appellee.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.

Author: Rhodes

[ 170 Pa. Super. Page 10]

RHODES, President Judge.

Appellant, a sewer connection inspector in the Department of Public Works of the City of Philadelphia, was indicted, tried, and convicted on bills of indictment charging him with common-law extortion. Appellant does not question the sufficiency of the Commonwealth's evidence which established that he extracted

[ 170 Pa. Super. Page 11]

    approximately $2,000 from various plumbing contractors by withholding approval of sewer connections until illegal fees were paid to him.

Appellant contends that, under the various statutes and ordinances involved, the office of 'sewer connection inspector' had in fact been abolished and its duties transferred to the Department of Public Health, and that he could not be guilty of extortion committed in an office which did not exist. The City Ordinance of April 3, 1883, page 86, made it the duty of the Chief Engineer and Surveyor of the Survey Department to appoint two competent persons to supervise all sewer connections.

Under the Charter Act of June 1, 1885, P.L. 37, 43, the Department of Public Works was given jurisdiction over 'surveys, engineering, sewerage, drainage and dredging * * *.' However, the Act did not repeal the many ordinances which controlled the various aspects of city government. Appellant's argument is to the effect that the office of sewer connection inspector under the ordinance of 1883 was eliminated by the Act of June 11, 1915, P.L. 954, § 2, 53 P.S. § 3854. Reference is also made to the Act of June 7, 1911, P.L. 680, 53 P.S. §§ 4094-96, 4151. Section 1 of the Act of 1915, 53 P.S. § 3851, provides that in cities of the first class there shall be a Division of Housing and Sanitation attached to the Department of Public Health and Charities. Section 2 of that Act, 53 P.S. §§ 3852, 3854, provides for a chief of the Division of Housing and Sanitation, who 'shall forthwith organize a subdivision thereof, which shall have charge and control of all matters relating to the construction and reconstruction of the plumbing and house connections of all buildings.' It is obvious from the evidence in the present case that the inspection of 'plumbing and house connections of all buildings' by the Department of Public Health, Bureau of Housing and Sanitation, is not necessarily inconsistent

[ 170 Pa. Super. Page 12]

    with the provisions of the ordinance of 1883. But appellant insists that 'the sewer connection inspectors' set up in the 1883 ordinance and placed by the Charter Act of 1885 under the Department of Public Works were abolished by the Act of 1915, which put all matters relating to house connections under the Department of Public Health and Charities. Appellant's argument on this point rests on the premise that 'sewer connections' and 'house connections' are identical. The evidence shows that these connections were for the most part distinct although at times inaccurately designated.

It appears from the record that a sewer connection is a connection of the city sewer or sewer lateral with the trap or the house plumbing at or near the curb line. It was appellant's duty to inspect such connections, for which permits were issued, and make a daily return of the inspections made. He had unreviewable authority to approve these connections, although his disapproval was reviewable. A house connection is variously described, including any connection of the pipe between the house and the lateral and relating to the drainage system or plumbing work of the house. Appellant had no authority over such connection. The curb trap and the vent are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health. Multiple inspection would not affect the purpose of the inspection made by appellant or his authority to approve or disapprove the connection with the sewer or sewer lateral. It would make no difference, as far as the position and duties of appellant were concerned, if the connection at the sewer or sewer lateral was also considered a ...


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