Appeal, No. 201, Jan. T., 1951, from judgment of Court of Common Pleas No. 5 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1950, No. 1950, in case of Joseph S. Clark, Jr., Controller, v. William F. Meade, et al., constituting the Board of Revision of Taxes. Judgment affirmed; reargument refused January 15, 1952.
Joseph H. Lieberman, for appellants.
Joseph S. Clark, Jr., in propria persona, with him Raymond J. Bradley and Morris M. Pickholtz, for appellee.
Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE DREW
The question involved in this mandamus proceeding, as accurately stated by the learned court below, is: Does the Controller of the City and County of Philadelphia have the authority to examine the records of the Board of Revision of Taxes of the County of Philadelphia as the source material of the tax collection functions of the City and County? The court below held that he does and the Board has appealed.
Joseph S. Clark, Jr., Controller of the City and County of Philadelphia, in the course of his duties conducted an audit of the books of the office of the City Solicitor which included the Personal Property Tax Lien Bureau of that office. That Bureau records in the prothonotary's office all liens for delinquent personal property taxes and also marks such liens satisfied upon the payment of the tax or upon abatement by proper order of the Board of Revision of Taxes. When a tax is abated the Board gives the Bureau notice by forwarding to it a carbon copy of the letter sent to the taxpayer. An employe of the Bureau then verifies this with the office of the Receiver of Taxes before satisfying the lien of record. In the course of the audit of the Bureau's accounts, the Controller learned that one of the two employes responsible for verifying the abatements had misappropriated money. In order to ascertain the full extent of the misappropriation, the Controller examined the records of the Receiver of Taxes but found them insufficient to serve as a basis for comparison with the records in the City Solicitor's office. He then requested the Board of Revision of Taxes to make available its records so that he could check with the source material to determine the total amount embezzled. This request was refused by the Board following which the Controller filed this complaint in mandamus.
In Clark v. Meehan, 367 Pa. 166, we reviewed the powers and duties of the Controller and concluded that he had "broad supervisory powers over the fiscal affairs of the county..." He has similar powers over the fiscal affairs of the City. The Board, however, relying on Selig v. Philadelphia, 232 Pa. 309, 81 A. 308, argues that it is a state agency and consequently its records are not subject to examination and audit by the Controller. Such an argument places far too broad a meaning on the Selig case.
In that case, the City of Philadelphia entered into a contract with a private corporation whereby the corporation was to appraise all real estate in certain wards of the City. Taxpayers sought an injunction to prevent the City from paying mone to the corporation under that contract. It was there held that because the legislature had provided a complete system for evaluating and assessing property through the Board of Revision of Taxes, the City was without authority to enter into the contract and appropriate money to duplicate the function of the Board. That case goes no farther than to state that a municipality may not interfere with the powers of an agency created by the State. That rule is, of course, a sound one and is properly recognized by the Controller. He could not and does not seek to determine the correctness of any assessments or abatements. That is left to the sound discretion of the Board and may not be interfered with by the Controller. He seeks only to examine the Board's records in an effort to learn the true financial condition of the City and County. This he has a right to do.
In the Selig case we stated, at p. 314: "Any power claimed by a municipal corporation to supervise, in part or in whole, a department created by the commonwealth must be based upon an express grant, or upon necessary implication from such a grant" ...