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PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION v. ECKLES (03/22/54)

March 22, 1954

PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION
v.
ECKLES, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 181, Jan. T., 1953, from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 7 of Philadelphia County, June T., 1952, No. 1391, in case of Civil Service Commission, City of Philadelphia, v. William J. Eckles, Jr. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Marvin Comisky, with him Lemuel B. Schofield, for appellant.

Jerome J. Shestack, First Deputy City Solicitor, with him Richard H. Markowitz, Assistant City Solicitor and Abraham L. Freedman, City Solicitor, for appellee.

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

Author: Chidsey

[ 376 Pa. Page 422]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE CHIDSEY

The question here involved is the validity of the demotion of certain firemen from the rank of captain to the rank of lieutenant made by the Fire Commissioner of Philadelphia. The demotions were upheld by the Civil Service Commission and this appeal is from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County affirming the action of the Commission.

On December 31, 1951 the appellant, William J. Eckles, Jr., and 17 others*fn1 were promoted by the then Director of Public Safety from the rank of lieutenant to the rank of captain in the Bureau of Fire, Department of Public Safety of Philadelphia. Under the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter which became effective on January 7, 1952, the Bureau of Fire became the Fire Department and the head of the department designated Fire Commissioner. On March 14, 1952 the Fire Commissioner notified Eckles and the 17 others that they were reduced to the rank of lieutenant, effective as of March 15, 1952. No reasons were assigned for this action, the Fire Commissioner relying upon the Civil Service Regulations adopted January 7, 1952 which provided for a probationary period of from two to six months, during which time a probationer could be demoted, discharged or replaced on the eligible list at the discretion of the Fire Commissioner with the approval of the Personnel Director. Under authority given him by the Regulations, the Personnel Director

[ 376 Pa. Page 423]

    set the probationary period at three months. The demotions were made within such period and were approved by the Personnel Director. No question is raised here by appellant as to the regularity of the proceedings, his sole contention being that the Fire Commissioner could not thus demote him without cause. Nor is any question raised as to the authority of the Common Pleas Court to entertain the appeal taken from the decision of the Civil Service Commission. See Philadelphia Civil Service Commission v. Wilson, 373 Pa. 583, 96 A.2d 863.

Appellant contends (1) that since his promotion from lieutenant to captain was made seven days prior to the effective date of the Home Rule Charter, the Philadelphia City Charter Act of 1919 was applicable to him and under it he could not be demoted because the probationary period therein prescribed did not cover promotions but only initial appointments and (2) that, there being no probationary period with respect to promotions under the Act of 1919, the Home Rule Charter and Regulations issued were not intended to apply retroactively to reduce an appointee's permanent status into a probationary status.

In support of appellant's contention that the probationary period prescribed in the Charter Act of 1919 did not cover promotions, appellant points to Article XIX, § 15, Act of June 25, 1919, P.L. 581, 53 PS § 3335, which provides in part: "... When an appointment is made under the provisions of this section, it shall be in the first instance for a probationary period of three months. If during that period the service of that officer or employe is unsatisfactory, the appointing officer shall notify him in writing that he will not be retained in the public ...


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