Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in case of In Re: Appeal of Paul J. Shannon from Decision of the Civil Service Commission of the Borough of Whitehall, No. SA 660 of 1970.
Ronald P. Koerner, with him Gatz, Cohen & O'Brien, for appellant.
Allen S. Wuchenich, with him Jones, Gregg, Creehan & Gerace, for appellee.
Judges Kramer, Manderino and Mencer, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Kramer.
This is an appeal from an Opinion and Order dated May 24, 1971 of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County affirming a "decision" of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) of the Borough of Whitehall, dated July 3, 1970. The Commission sustained the action taken by the Borough Mayor in suspending Paul J. Shannon (appellant) from his duties as a Borough policeman for a period of two days.
Although several procedural issues are raised on appeal, they need not be decided because this case can be determined finally by a holding of this Court on the merits of the case, i.e., whether the Commission abused its discretion in sustaining the two-day suspension of the appellant for "conduct unbecoming an officer." The court below received certain additional testimony, none of it, however, relevant to the merits of the case, and as indicated in the Opinion of the court below, none of it was utilized in arriving at the court's Order. In view of the fact that the court below did not take any additional testimony or receive any additional evidence on the merits,*fn* the scope of review of this Court is to determine whether or not the Commission abused its discretion or committed an error of law. Gabriele v. Boeing Company, Vertol Division, 1 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 96, 99, 272 A.2d 527, 529 (1971), Romain v. Middletown Area School District, 1 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 419, 421, 275 A.2d 400 (1971).
At the time of the incident out of which this lawsuit arose, Shannon had served the Borough of Whitehall
(Borough) as a police officer for eight years, with no previous suspension record.
The opening scene of the incident occurred at about 1:30 P.M., on Wednesday, May 15, 1970, when appellant's infant son (age one and one-half years) tripped, fell, and was injured on the sidewalk adjacent to appellant's home. The child suffered deep lacerations of the lip and gums, owing to the fact that in his fall he came in contact with the sharp edges of a metal can. The record describes the frantic scene of a policeman father and a mother, trained as a nurse, desperately, but unsuccessfully, attempting to stop the bleeding from the baby's wounds. One need not be a parent who has been through the traumatic experience of watching his own child thrashing and screaming with fear and pain, to appreciate Shannon's description of his nurse-wife's condition. He said, "She was by this time on the point of hysteria." Shannon was due to report for his police work at 2:45 P.M. In the midst of this excitement, owing perhaps to his police training, Shannon had the presence of mind to call the police desk and ask to talk to the Chief of Police. There are no significant differences between the descriptions of what transpired thereafter as indicated in the testimony of both the Chief and Shannon.
By telephone Shannon told the Chief that his son had fallen and was badly hurt and requested permission to report late for duty so that he could take his baby and wife to the hospital. The Chief inquired of Shannon whether or not he had "a grandfather, grandmother and brothers and sisters and others" to help in the emergency, which would enable him to arrive at the station at the regular time for the commencement of his duty. At the very time of the phone conversation, the baby's wounds were still ...