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WILLIAM M. COLEMAN v. MARY L. STEVENSON (07/29/75)

decided: July 29, 1975.

WILLIAM M. COLEMAN, FRANK L. SWOGGER, JR., CHARLES L. MCCRACKEN, COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF MERCER, APPELLANTS,
v.
MARY L. STEVENSON, CONTROLLER, MERCER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County in case of William M. Coleman, Frank L. Swogger, Jr., Charles L. McCracken, Commissions of the County of Mercer and the County of Mercer v. Mary L. Stevenson, Controller, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, No. 9 December Term, 1974.

COUNSEL

Thomas T. Frampton, County Solicitor, with him Stranahan and Stranahan, for appellants.

George Hardy Rowley, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Kramer.

Author: Kramer

[ 20 Pa. Commw. Page 499]

This is an appeal filed by William M. Coleman, Frank L. Swogger, Jr., Charles L. McCracken, Commissioners of the County of Mercer (Commissioners), from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County denying in part and granting in part the prayer of a complaint in mandamus filed by the Commissioners against Mary L. Stevenson, Controller of Mercer County. The mandamus action was filed for the purpose of obtaining a judgment against the Controller under which she would be directed to certify checks for increased salaries to certain county employes, as fixed by the county's salary board.

Although this Court did not have the benefit of a transcript*fn1 of testimony taken before the court below, it was stipulated by the parties "that the Court's findings of fact as set forth in its opinion were supported by sufficient evidence."*fn2 Mercer County is a fifth class county

[ 20 Pa. Commw. Page 500]

    under the County Code, Act of August 9, 1955, P.L. 323, section 210, as amended, 16 P.S. § 210(5). Without the benefit of a transcript, we will assume that Mercer County properly followed the statutory procedure to establish a budget for the year 1974. Also, apparently the Commissioners appropriated specific sums of money for the operation of the various departments*fn3 of county government. As a result of some independent economic or fiscal study, the salary board, which consists of the three County Commissioners and the Controller (see section 1622 of the County Code, 16 P.S. § 1622), met on August 9, 1974, and a majority voted to approve employment classification changes for eleven county employes, and pay them increases retroactive to June 1, 1974. Thereafter, the Controller refused to honor the action of the salary board and refused to issue checks in the amount representing the pay increases.

There were sufficient monies in the budget for the year 1974, and specific departmental appropriations, for the payment of increases to five of the eleven employes. For the county offices of public defender and tax assessment, the lower court found deficiencies. In the public defender's office, the court found that, even at the existing salary levels, the budget would have been exceeded by $188.73, but with the increase fixed by the salary board, the budget would be overdrawn for the year 1974 by $710.06. For the tax assessment office, the lower court did not specifically state the exact amount by which the salary increase would exceed the appropriated monies for that office. Rather, it only noted that the budget for the year 1974 was $58,755.31, and that as of September 30, 1974, $42,800 had been expended. Without an adequate finding, we are at a loss to understand how anyone expects this

[ 20 Pa. Commw. Page 501]

Court to determine whether the court below abused its discretion in finding that the action of the salary board caused an expenditure in excess of the amount appropriated for the tax assessment office. Upon remand the court below should make a specific finding on this point.

It was also stipulated (as found by the court) that the County had a balance of anticipated revenues over anticipated expenses of $50,000, which represented unappropriated monies available for county purposes, and which would have been sufficient to meet all of the salary increases fixed by the salary board for the year 1974.

The lower court held that the five employes who held positions in those departments which it found had not or would not exceed their appropriations were permitted to receive the retroactive salary increases fixed by the salary board. The Controller took no appeal from the lower court's order, even though the Controller apparently contended throughout the hearing that it was improper to allow any increased salaries retroactive to June 1, 1974.

With reference to the remaining six employes, the court refused to approve the salary increases based upon the court's reasoning that under statutory and case law the Controller properly refused to approve expenditures to cover salary increases for which the County Commissioners had not made ...


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