Appeal from the Order of the State Civil Service Commission in case of Paul E. Kanjorski v. Department of Labor and Industry, Appeal No. 2230.
Joseph J. Musto, with him Griffith, Aponick & Musto, for appellant.
Sandra S. Christianson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and DiSalle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr.
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 129]
This is an appeal by Paul E. Kanjorski (petitioner) from a decision of the State Civil Service Commission (Commission) sustaining his 10-day suspension as a workmen's compensation referee (referee), regular status, imposed by the Deputy Secretary of Labor and Industry (Secretary). We reverse.
Petitioner is both a referee and an attorney in private practice. On March 9, 1977, subsequent to a negotiated settlement of a civil case in which petitioner represented a plaintiff, petitioner told the opposing counsel, Bart E. Ecker, Jr., that because of the manner in which Ecker had conducted the negotiations he did not know whether he would be able to handle or rule impartially upon any cases of Ecker or Reliance Insurance Company, whom Ecker represented. He added that he might seek reassignment of
[ 44 Pa. Commw. Page 130]
such cases. Ecker later questioned whether his workmen's compensation cases would be treated fairly by petitioner and inquired whether petitioner was sincere about his statement. Upon receiving Ecker's inquiry, petitioner brought the matter to the attention of the Department of Labor and Industry (Department), the appointing authority. He maintained that he would be impartial but suggested that the cases involving Ecker be reassigned to avoid any appearance of bias. An investigation ensued.
Petitioner was suspended 10 working days between June 8 and June 22, 1977 by the Secretary on a charge of misuse of, and misconduct in, his official position as referee, based on an alleged threat to use his office to "even the score" against Ecker. Petitioner appealed to the Commission. After a hearing, the Commission found as a fact that petitioner told Ecker that "he would never be able to handle, or rule upon, any (Workmen's Compensation) case you (Ecker) or Reliance Insurance Company have before me." Based on this finding, the Commission, by a 2-to-1 vote, dismissed the appeal and sustained the suspension. This appeal followed.
The issue before us is whether the Commission erred in concluding that petitioner's conduct constituted "good cause" for suspension under Section 803 of the Civil Service Act, Act of August 5, 1941, P.L. 752, as amended, 71 P.S. § 741.803, which provides, in pertinent part:
An appointing authority may for good cause suspend without pay for disciplinary purposes an employe holding a position in the classified service. Such suspension shall not exceed in the aggregate thirty working days in one calendar year . . . . What shall constitute ...