Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County in case of William A. Flood v. Borough of Canonsburg, No. 306 January Term, 1976.
Roger J. Ecker, with him Peacock, Keller, Yohe, Day & Ecker, for appellant.
Stanford A. Segal, with him Gatz, Cohen, Segal & Koerner, for appellee.
Judges Crumlish, Jr., Wilkinson, Jr. and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
The issue presented in this appeal is whether the Washington County Court of Common Pleas erred in sustaining appellee's action in mandamus which sought to require appellant Borough of Canonsburg (Borough) to reinstate him as chief of police following the adoption of an ordinance which purportedly abolished that position. We find no error.
Appellee became the Borough's chief of police in 1966, having successfully completed a civil service
examination for that position. Since 1969, the Borough and its police force have had frequent disputes in labor negotiations pursuant to the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, as amended, 43 P.S. § 217.1 et seq. (commonly known as "Act 111"). An agreement was reached for the years 1972-74 but, in July 1975 (while the agreement was still in effect under a renewability clause), the police force brought suit against the mayor and the borough council, alleging that the Borough was not abiding by certain terms of the agreement. Appellee's name appears as a plaintiff in the suit, as does the name of every member of the police force at that time. The Borough's preliminary objections to the suit were dismissed, and that decision was affirmed by this Court (Flood v. Borough of Canonsburg, 28 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 248, 368 A.2d 348 (1977)).
By request of the Borough, negotiations toward a new contract began later in July 1975. Appellee's name was included among those of the police force who wished to be considered members of the bargaining unit, but he did not participate in the negotiations. An impasse was reached in September 1975 and an arbitrators' award for the period 1976-78 was issued in November 1975 from which award the Borough has appealed. Appellee was included within the terms of the award, one ground upon which the Borough based its appeal.
During the last several months of 1975, the borough council was in the process of preparing a budget for 1976. An initially-proposed millage increase of approximately 15 to 18 mills was reduced to 5.5 mills when a tentative budget was adopted on December 17, 1975. At a meeting on December 31, 1975, additional budget reductions of $4000 were made in the allocations for police cars and consulting fees. Most significantly, the borough council adopted an ordinance
which abolished the position of chief of police, effective the next day. The minutes of that meeting reveal no discussion of the savings to be effected by the abolition; the only comment made prior to the adoption of the ordinance was that by a councilman who stated: "[A]s of 12:00 midnight, December 31, 1975, the Chief of Police is a member of the Negotiating Team for the F.O.P. [Fraternal Order of Police]." (However, corrections to the minutes approved by a new borough council in January 1976 inserted the words "for economic reasons" in the description of the ordinance and the reference to appellee's membership on the "Negotiating Team" was corrected to read "Bargaining Team.") Immediately after the abolition was approved, the mayor was voted a salary increase of $500, a figure nearly identical to an ...