Appeal from the Orders of the Department of Education in case of William Weder and Palisades Taxpayers' Association v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, dated January 19, 1976 and January 23, 1976.
John M. Demcisak, for appellants.
Gerald Gornish, Deputy Attorney General, with him Sally A. Lied, Assistant Attorney General, and Robert P. Kane, Attorney General, for appellee.
Ross Van Denbergh, with him Frederick H. Ehmann, Jr.; Samuel G. Moyer ; and, of counsel, Power, Bowen & Valimont ; and Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul, for intervening appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Judge Kramer did not participate. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 27 Pa. Commw. Page 330]
This case is one episode, hopefully at worst the penultimate, of a long-standing dispute between the appellee, Board of School Directors of the School District of Palisades, Bucks County, and the appellants, William Weder, a taxpayer and sometime Palisades School Director and the Palisades Taxpayers Association, a public interest nonprofit corporation. The School District has for several years intended to construct a new middle school and to renovate and alter an existing high school building. The appellants have steadfastly opposed this project because, in their opinion, the construction of a new elementary school would be a more reasonable and less costly alternative. In this appeal, the primary contention of the disaffected taxpayers is that the Department of Education's final approval of the School District's building plan is void because of alleged violations of provisions of the so-called "Taj Mahal" Act*fn1 and the so-called "Sunshine Law"*fn2
This is the second time appellants have sought review of the Department's actions. In September of
[ 27 Pa. Commw. Page 3311975]
, this Court quashed their earlier appeal, in which they complained of the form of the hearing accorded them by the Department. Judge Wilkinson, in a heretofore unpublished opinion, wrote:
This matter is before the Court, on briefs, for disposition of a motion to quash the appeal. Several reasons were given supporting the motion to quash, but since one is determinative, it is unnecessary to pass upon the others. The one that is determinative is that there is no appealable adjudication from which this appeal could be taken.
There has been a long-standing difference of opinion between the appellants and the intervening appellee as to the wisdom of proceeding with a planned construction program. Despite the opposition of appellants, intervening appellee has proceeded with its plans and, as far as the record reveals, has been in compliance with the requirements of the Public School Code of 1949, Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. §§ 1-101 et seq. Specifically, the record reveals that intervening appellee is proceeding within the requirements of the so-called "Taj Mahal" Act, being the Act of June 27, 1973, P.L. 75, No. 34, 24 P.S. § 7-731. Appellants drew the attention of the Department of Education to what they considered bad judgment, if not bad faith, on the part of intervening appellee in proceeding with the project in opposition to what it considered to be the recommendation of a study made by the Pennsylvania Economy League.
In accordance with the authority granted it by the Public School Code, 24 P.S. § 7-731, as part of its investigation, the Department of Education conducted what it denominated a hearing. It certainly was not a due process hearing; indeed, ...