Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in case of In Re: Appeal of Phillip D. Redo from Suspension from Duty as a Police Officer and from Order of Termination as a Police Officer by the Supervisors of West Goshen Township, Misc. No. 40, 1977.
Ronald C. Nagle, with him Buckley, Nagle & McQuiddy, for West Goshen Township.
William S. Hugania, with him, Joseph R. Polito, Jr., for Phillip D. Redo.
Judges Mencer, Rogers and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
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The Police Tenure Act, the popular designation for the Act of June 15, 1951, P.L. 586, 53 P.S. § 811 et seq., governs suspensions and dismissals of tenured police officers in Second Class Townships. Section 2 of the Act, 53 P.S. § 812, allows the imposition of discipline
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 470]
for, among other things, "conduct unbecoming an officer," proof of which constitutes just cause for dismissal.
This case comes before us on cross-appeals by Officer Redo and the township from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County affirming the adjudication of the Board of Supervisors of West Goshen Township that Redo engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer,*fn1 but modifying the Board's dismissal order to a one-year suspension.
We adopt the findings of fact of the court below, with which the parties have no significant disagreement.*fn2 The gist of those facts are that Officer Redo, embroiled in marital difficulties, engaged in an altercation at the Eagle Hotel with the hotel's owner, whom Redo suspected of causing or exacerbating his marital problems. West Goshen's chief of police, concerned over the embarrassment created by Redo's imbroglio in a neighboring township, warned him to stay away from that hotel and its owner. His marital difficulties unresolved, Redo several weeks later returned to the hotel anyway and another row with the owner ensued, resulting in an investigation and report filed by the police of the neighboring township. The police chief of West Goshen then filed the charges which culminated in Redo's dismissal by the Board.
Together, the appellants present us with three issues: (1) whether the procedures employed by the township in affording Redo a hearing on his dismissal, through an improper commingling of prosecutorial and adjudicatory functions, denied him due process;
[ 42 Pa. Commw. Page 471]
(2) whether the conduct proven legally amounted to conduct unbecoming an officer; (3) whether the lower court acted improperly in modifying the penalty imposed by the township Board.
The due process contention is based upon arguments that: the Police Tenure Act contemplates convening an independent civil service panel to handle all police tenure, appointment and removal questions; the members of the Board exercised their judicial functions while already "thoroughly familiar" with the case; the attorney who advised the Board, because he was also the solicitor for the township's Zoning Hearing Board, was not "independent" of the prosecution; and, the township ...