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JOHN F. BYRNE AND DONNA B. KLEMM v. JANE C. ALEXANDER ET AL. (01/21/81)

decided: January 21, 1981.

JOHN F. BYRNE AND DONNA B. KLEMM, APPELLANTS
v.
JANE C. ALEXANDER ET AL., APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of the 39th Judicial District, Franklin County Branch, in the case of John F. Byrne and Donna B. Klemm v. Jane C. Alexander, Harry H. Jones, Sara Kieffer, I. Eugene Martin, Fred W. Myers, Ray R. Peterson and Charles H. Sturgeon as members of the Board of School Directors of the Greencastle-Antrim School District, Equity Docket Volume 7, Page 248.

COUNSEL

Jan C. Sulcove, Black and Davison, for appellants.

Frederick G. Antoun, Jr., with him Jack M. Stover of Shearer, Mette & Woodside, for appellees.

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

Author: Mencer

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 207]

At a time when hard-pressed taxpayers are more mindful than ever concerning the expenditure of tax dollars by public officials, this appeal presents us with the question of whether a school board abused its discretion by deciding to delete a swimming pool and locker room facilities from a new elementary school to be constructed.

Certain taxpayers in the Greencastle-Antrim School District in Franklin County and parents of children presently enrolled in that school district filed a suit in equity seeking to enjoin the deletion of the swimming pool and locker room facilities. The school board members named as defendants filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer and a motion to strike for failure of the plaintiffs to exhaust remedies available to them under the Public School Code of 1949.*fn1 The Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County, by order dated June 2, 1980, granted the demurrer and motion to strike filed by the defendants and dismissed the case filed by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs then appealed to this Court from that order, and we affirm.

Our Supreme Court stated, in Landerman v. Churchill Area School District, 414 Pa. 530, 534, 200 A.2d 867, 869 (1964):

In order for a court of equity to grant relief, it must clearly be shown that the school board acted outside the scope of its statutory authority or not in good faith. 'It is only where the board transcends the limits of its legal discretion that it is amenable to the injunctive processes of a court of equity. . . .' (Citations omitted.)

[ 56 Pa. Commw. Page 208]

Only in those instances wherein arbitrariness, caprice, and wrongdoing characterize a board's act will a court interfere. Arbitrariness and caprice must not be confused with honest differences of opinion and judgment. Dochenetz v. Bentworth School District, 6 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 173 (1972).

Our examination of this record convinces us that the board's decision of January 17, 1980 to delete the swimming pool and locker room facilities from the new elementary school was not outside the scope of its authority. We have not been persuaded that there was a continuing legal obligation on the school board to proceed with the building of a swimming pool and locker room facilities in accordance with its earlier decision to do so. See Ulanoski v. Sheaffer, 53 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 279, 417 A.2d 846 (1980).

The appellants here, plaintiffs in the court below, contend that the school board decision of January 17, 1980 was made without proper inquiry and for political motivation. This record clearly portrays the community dispute that resulted from the proposal to build a new elementary school, and central thereto was the inclusion of a swimming pool. Upon becoming members of the school board, the seven present members who were elected in November 1979 after actively campaigning to rescind the plans to build a swimming pool in the new elementary school were not, as a result of such a campaign promise, precluded from voting in support of a decision that would fulfill their campaign promise. Their extended public ...


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