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RONALD E. SILER v. CITY HARRISBURG (10/22/80)

decided: October 22, 1980.

RONALD E. SILER, APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF HARRISBURG, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County in case of Ronald E. Siler v. City of Harrisburg, No. 1563 S Term, 1979.

COUNSEL

John B. Mancke, Mancke & Lightman, for appellant.

Nathan H. Waters, Jr., with him Takashi A. Bufford, for appellee.

Judges Blatt, Craig and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.

Author: Craig

[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 304]

Ronald E. Siler appeals to this court pursuant to 42 Pa. C.S. ยง 762(a)(4)(ii) from the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, which denied his appeal and upheld his discharge from the police force by the Harrisburg City Council.

Siler has been a patrolman of the Harrisburg police department for ten years, during which period he had received several suspensions and official reprimands. After he served another ten-day suspension, starting February 22, 1979, for being late for a court hearing, the chief of police recommended to city council on March 8, 1979 that Siler be discharged on the grounds of (1) being absent from duty without leave and (2) incompetency. The council, following a hearing,

[ 54 Pa. Commw. Page 305]

    ordered Siler discharged solely because of incompetency.*fn1 As counsel for the city stated to the trial court, "[e]ven though Officer Siler was charged with being away from duty without leave and with incompetency, the City Council found that the dismissal was based on Section 24.004 . . . entitled 'competency'", thus indicating that council found the absence-without leave charge to be unsupported.

At the hearing de novo in common pleas court, the evidence presented on behalf of the city consisted solely of testimony by an assistant chief, custodian of police records, who recited in chronological order the previous disciplinary actions taken against Siler, from a document summarizing those charges. The recorded past penalties included eleven summary suspensions, for a total of 84 days, and six official reprimands for infractions such as neglect of duty, sick leave abuse, reporting late for work, and missing hearings. The city's evidence did not present any wrongdoing by Siler beyond the infractions which had been thus penalized.

Counsel for Siler objected to the admission of the testimony as being based on hearsay; the trial court overruled the objection and admitted the evidence under the official records exception.

Siler offered testimony by 22 current or past members of the police department ...


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