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FRANK J. PATERRA v. CHARLEROI AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (12/30/75)

decided: December 30, 1975.

FRANK J. PATERRA, THOMAS W. GRIFFITH AND ANTHONY P. MCGREW, APPELLANTS
v.
CHARLEROI AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County in case of Frank J. Paterra, Thomas W. Griffith and Anthony P. McGrew v. Charleroi Area School District, No. 6984 in Equity, Book 41, Page 241.

COUNSEL

Thomas J. Terputac, for appellants.

Melvin B. Bassi, with him John E. Costello, for appellee.

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

Author: Rogers

[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 452]

Three citizens and taxpayers of the Charleroi Area School District filed a pleading denominated complaint in equity in which they described actions of the School Board of that district with respect to a meeting conducted on September 18, 1974 which the plaintiffs alleged was held and conducted in violation of the Act of July 19, 1974, P.L. 486, 65 P.S. § 261 et seq., popularly known

[ 22 Pa. Commw. Page 453]

    as the Sunshine Law. The injunctive relief*fn1 requested was that the School Board be restrained from holding further meetings in alleged violation of the Act, and the declaratory relief sought was that the actions taken at the meeting in question be declared void and of no effect. The sole defendant named in the complaint was the Charleroi Area School District. No school director was served or appeared.

We learn from an order of the court below which appears in the record that the defendant district filed preliminary objections. These are not in the record certified to us and we find no mention of them in the docket entries. Whether they included a petition raising the defense of the failure to join a necessary party we do not know. The court below dismissed the preliminary objections "pro forma" in order to get speedily to the merits and set the case down for hearing although the defendant had not filed an answer.

After trial, the court below refused all relief sought by the plaintiffs and dismissed the complaint. The court's action was based on its conclusion that no formal Board action was scheduled or taken at the September 18, 1974 meeting and that it was not, therefore, required to be open to the public. Section 2 of the Act of July 19, 1974, 65 P.S. § 262.

Because the case presents an early opportunity to explore and construe the so-called Sunshine Law, which has been the subject of speculation and concern to many interested in Pennsylvania government, we are, as was the court below, tempted to decide the issues on the merits. We may not do so because necessary parties to the action have not been joined as defendants.

As noted, only the School District was named as defendant. The complaint describes actions of the School Board and injunctive ...


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