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ADDISON CASE. (04/16/56)

April 16, 1956


Appeal, no. 324, Jan. T., 1955, from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 4 of Philadelphia County, sept. T., 1954, No. 2707, in re: George E. Addison. Order reversed; reargument refused April 30, 1956.


James L. Stern, Deputy City Solicitor, with him David E. Pinsky, Herbert M. Linsenberg and William D. Valente, Assistant City Solicitors and Abraham L. Freedman, City Solicitor, for appellant.

Samuel Gorson, for appellee.

Irving R. Shull, with him Alfred I. Ginsburg and Bernard L. Lemisch, for amicus curiae.

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

Author: Jones

[ 385 Pa. Page 50]


The principal question in this case is whether a general statute, which authorizes an appeal by an aggrieved employee from a decision of a civil service board of any city to the court of common pleas of the county, worked a nullification of the provision in Philadelphia's Home Rule Charter which restricts the scope of judicial review to be accorded by the court of common pleas upon an appeal thereto from a decision of the Civil Service Commission of Philadelphia.

On the present appellee's appeal to the court below from a decision of the Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, the court held that the general statute was paramount and, therewith, proceeded to a disposition of the appeal on the merits in disregard of the limitation upon court review imposed by the Philadelphia

[ 385 Pa. Page 51]

Home Rule Charter. A secondary question than followed as to whether the evidence adduced at the hearing before the Civil Service commission was sufficient to warrant the employee's dismissal. The court deeded the evidence insufficient to justify the dismissal and entered an order sustaining the appeal. From that order, the City took this appeal.

The employee, Geroge E. Addison, a patrolman of the City of Philadelphia, was dismissed by the Commissioner of Police for conduct unbecoming an officer in that he had accepted a mortgage loan of $2500 from one Leo "Clee" Coleman, a well-known "numbers banker". At the hearing before the Civil Service Commission on Addison's appeal of his dismissal, it was established beyond question that the $2500 loan was the full purchase price of a residence property bought by Addison at sheriff's sale; that the money so loaned was wholly supplied by Coleman; and that the mortgage which Addison and his wife executed to secure the loan named Leo Coleman as mortgagee and was for a ten-year term with interest at four per cent. At the time of this occurrence and for upwards of four years prior thereto, Addison's area of police duty embraced 1632 North 13th Street which was the location of "Clee" Coleman's "headquarters". Addison denied that he knew Leo Coleman personally at the time of the mortgage transaction but admitted that he had known of "Clee" Coleman, "the numbers banker", for many years. He claimed not to have thought of Leo Coleman, the mortgagee and lender of the purchase money, as being "Clee" Coleman. Addison further testified that the loan had been arranged for by one Abe Johnson, a real estate agent of the neighborhood, whose services Addison had enlisted before he bid in the property at sheriff's sale. Johnson was not only well acquainted with Addison but also with "Clee" Coleman with whom he

[ 385 Pa. Page 52]

    had had considerable business dealings. When Addison and his wife signed the mortgage, he read and noted that Leo Coleman was the mortgagee. He said that it was more than eighteen months after the mortgage had been placed that he first knew that the loan had come from "Clee" Coleman - a discovery which he did not communicate to anyone. About that time the mortgage was assigned to another lender. On the testimony so adduced at the hearing, the Civil Service Commission found Addison guilty of gross stupidity, if not culpable impropriety, in accepting a full purchase price mortgage loan on generous terms from one engaged in a "business" such as Coleman's, operating within Addison's bailiwick. The Commission accordingly concluded that Addison's dismissal by the Police Commissioner was for just cause.

Pursuant to the authority conferred by the Amendment of Article XV. Section 1, of our State Constitution, adopted November 7, 1922, the legislature, by Act of April 21, 1949, P.L. 665, 53 PS ยง 3421 et seq., authorized cities of the first class to frame and adopt their own charters and to exercise powers and authority of local self-government subject to the restrictions, limitations and regulations prescribed by the Act. The presently material portions of the enabling Act which specify the power and authority conferred and the limitations and restrictions imposed are as follows:

"Section 17. General Grant of Power and Authority. - Subject to the limitations hereinafter prescribed, the city taking advantage of this act ... shall have and may exercise all powers and authority of local self-government and shall have complete powers of legislation and administration in relation to its municipal functions ... The charter of any city adopted or amended in accordance with this act may provide for a form or system of municipal government and for the

[ 385 Pa. Page 53]

    exercise of any and all powers relating to its municipal functions ... to the full extent that the General Assembly may legislate in reference thereto as to cities of the first class, and with like effect ...

"Section 18. Limitations. - ... Notwithstanding the grant of powers contained in this act, no city shall exercise powers contrary to, or in limitation or enlargement of, powers granted by acts of the General Assembly which are ... (b) Applicable in every part of the Commonwealth. (c) Applicable to all the cities of the Commonwealth."

The Charter Commission, which was created in accordance with the provisions of the enabling Act of 1949, cit. supra, framed a proposed Home Rule Charter for Philadelphia which was adopted by the electors of the City at a special election held on April 17, 1951. By its terms, the Charter was to become operative (except for a few items not presently material) on the first Monday of January, 1952.

Section 7-201 of the Charter, as so adopted, after conferring a right upon an aggrieved civil service employee of the City to appeal to the Civil Service Commission, ordained that "Findings and decisions of the Commission and any action taken in conformance therewith as a result thereof shall be final and there shall be no further appeal on the ...

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