Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County in the case of The School District of Bensalem Township v. Gigliotti Corporation, et al., No. 75-12105-03-1.
D. Donald Jamieson, with him Steven R. Williams, Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe, Cramer and Jamieson, for appellant.
John P. Koopman, with him William J. Carlin, Begley, Carlin, Mandio & Popkin, for appellees.
Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.
[ 51 Pa. Commw. Page 610]
The sole issue raised on this appeal is whether the Court of Common Pleas erred in invalidating action taken by the Board of Directors (Board) of the School District of Bensalem Township (District) at a meeting of the Board which was open to the public but which had not been announced pursuant to the requirements of Section 5 of the popularly called Sunshine Law, Act of July 19, 1974 (Law), P.L. 486, as amended, 65 P.S. § 265. For the reasons which follow, we hold that the Court did not err and we affirm its order.
The facts of this case are not in dispute and may be stated briefly. In December, 1975, the District filed suit in assumpsit in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County against Gigliotti Corporation and various other landlords with rental properties in Bensalem Township (Appellees). Through its suit, the District sought to collect taxes it claimed it was due pursuant to a resolution passed by the Board at its regular meeting held on October 9, 1974. The resolution required certain landlords within the District to
[ 51 Pa. Commw. Page 611]
register with the District Treasurer and to collect from their tenants per capita and personal taxes levied by the District on all residents of the Township aged 18 years or older. The resolution also provided that landlords were to be held liable for the payment of taxes they were unable to collect. Appellees admittedly did not comply with the resolution.
Appellees raised several points by way of New Matter in their answer to the District's complaint. Following a non-jury trial, Judge Beckert determined that in holding the October 9 meeting the District had failed to comply with Section 5 of the Law, that the resolution passed at the meeting was, therefore, invalid, and, that it could not serve as a basis of recovery against Appellees. The District filed exceptions to Judge Beckert's order which were heard by the Court en banc. The Court dismissed the exceptions and the case is now before us for review.
Section 2 of the Law, 65 P.S. § 262, provides that
The meetings or hearings of every agency at which formal action is scheduled or taken are public meetings and shall be open to the public at all times. No formal action shall be valid unless such formal action is taken during a public meeting.
There is no doubt that the school board meeting is the type of meeting to which the Law applies, nor that the Board's passing the resolution constituted "formal action." See Section 1 of the Law, 65 P.S. § 261. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the October 9 meeting was open to the public and that there were some members of the public in attendance. The only question is whether the District's failure to comply with Section 5 of the Law prevents the ...