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MEIXELL v. HELLERTOWN BOROUGH COUNCIL (06/26/53)

June 26, 1953

MEIXELL, APPELLANT,
v.
HELLERTOWN BOROUGH COUNCIL



Appeal, No. 186, Jan. T., 1953, from order of Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Sept. T., 1951, No. 16, in case of Althrope Meixell v. Borough Council of Borough of Hellertown. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Philip J. Gahagan, for appellant.

Milton J. Goodman, with him Bernard V. O'Hare, Jr., for appellee.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 374 Pa. Page 413]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

On June 4, 1951, Myron D. Parsons, Chief Burgess of Hellertown, Pennsylvania, resigned his office; and his resignation was accepted by the Borough Council effective as of June 30, 1951. On June 18, 1951, at a regular meeting of the Borough Council (which is made up of nine members), the President announced that the Council would consider the election of a Burgress to serve out the unexpired term of Parsons. Three candidates thereupon were placed in nomination, and, after the voting, it was announced that Althrope Meixel, (a non-councilman), had received four votes, Raymond S. Judd, (a councilman) three votes, and Victor J. Abel (another councilman) two votes. The Council President, Gerald Wartman, declared that no one had received a majority of the votes, and the Council decide to defer action

[ 374 Pa. Page 414]

    until the next regular meeting of the Council scheduled for July 2, 1951.

On July 16, 1951, Meixell filed a Complaint in Mandamus in the courts of Northampton County asking that he be declared the duly elected burgess, since two of the councilmen (Abel and Judd) had disqualified their vote by voting for themselves, contrary to the laws of the Commonwealth. On appeal from the decision of the Court of Common Pleas which sustained the preliminary objections to Meixell's Complaint, this Court upheld the appellant's position, but on May 26, 1952, we handed down a supplemental order granting the defendant leave to make answer to the Complaint.*fn1 The defendant filed its Answer and New Matter, the plaintiff filed a Reply to the New Matter, and the resulting issue came on for trial before Judge WOODRING, sitting without a jury. On September 15, 1952, the Court entered judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff has appealed against to this Court.

The salary of the Chief Burgess of Hellertown is only $400 a year, so that it is apparent that the appellant did not initiate and carry forward these expensive legal proceedings for financial profit. But with monetary emoluments go the honor and prestige associated with that of being chief executive of one's own town. Hellertown does not have the size of New York nor the historical grandeur of Rome but for its inhabitants it is a world in itself, and any one can well be proud of the distinction of being its first citizen. However, even glory can be, and in some situations must be, regulated by statute. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania, by Act of July 10, 1947, P.L. 1621, § 22 (53 PS 12871) provides, inter alia, that: "If any vacancy shall occur in the office of burgess... by death, resignation, removal

[ 374 Pa. Page 415]

    from the borough... or in any other manner whatsoever, the borough council shall fill such vacancy by appointing, by resolution, a registered elector of the borough... to hold ...


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