Appeal from an arbitration award in case of In the Matter of Arbitration between County of Dauphin and Pennsylvania Social Services Union, dated February 16, 1976.
Robert L. Rubendall, with him, of counsel, Leonard Tintner; Berman, Boswell, Snyder & Tintner ; and Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas & Wood, for appellant.
Stephen A. Sheller, with him Faye R. Cohen, and Pechner, Dorfman, Wolffe & Rounick, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Rogers, sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr., Rogers, Blatt and DiSalle. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 458]
In March 1974, the County of Dauphin entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Pennsylvania Social Service Union which provided reimbursement for the use by employees of their personal autobile at the rate of 14 cents per mile with an escalation clause based on the cost of gasoline. By November 1975, the agreement being still in effect, the effective rate of reimbursement for the use of automobiles was 18 cents per mile.
By the Act of May 31, 1974, P.L. 308, effective immediately, the General Assembly added a Section 414 to The County Code.*fn1 The new provision was as follows:
All county officials and employes may, when authorized by the county commissioners, be reimbursed at the rate of twelve cents (12 cents) per mile for the use of their personal vehicle when discharging their official duties or performing a duty imposed upon them unless provisions of law require the payment of a higher rate.
Apparently, Section 414 was not brought to the attention of the Dauphin County Commissioners until November 1975 at which time they ordered that reimbursement thereafter would be at the rate of 12 cents per mile fixed by the statute. The Union filed a grievance which eventually came to an arbitrator who decided that the County was obliged to pay reimbursement at the rate fixed by the collective bargaining agreement, Section 414 notwithstanding. The County has filed a petition for appeal of the arbitrator's award pursuant
[ 33 Pa. Commw. Page 459]
to Pa. R.J.A. No. 2101. The Union has filed a motion to quash the petition and an answer.
The Union's motion to quash is founded on the County's failure to appeal within thirty (30) days from February 7, 1976, a date that appeared on a letter from the arbitrator sent to counsel. In this letter the arbitrator informed counsel that his award was that the employer must pay reimbursement at the rate fixed in the collective bargaining agreement. The arbitrator further wrote that he was communicating his award in advance of a formal decision because he had promised a prompt decision and that he "[did] not expect that the formal decision in this case will be ready for issuance for another ten (10) days to two weeks." Under date of February 16, 1976, the arbitrator issued his formal decision containing findings, an extended discussion and a final order. The County's appeal was filed on March 9, 1976 but not within thirty (30) days after February 7, 1976. We view the arbitrator's letter of February 7, 1976 as merely an advance and informal notice of what the award would be. Under the circumstances of the case, the County's appeal taken within thirty (30) days from the date of the formal decision was timely. We dismiss the motion to quash.
We must reverse the arbitrator's award on the merits. Counties are governmental agencies of the State which possess only those powers which are expressly or impliedly conferred by constitutional provisions or legislative enactments. Counties are not municipal corporations, as are cities, boroughs and townships, and counties may not legislate independently of the Commonwealth's ...