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MICHAEL DAUGHERTY ET AL. v. JAMES LILLIE ET AL. JAMES LILLIE (03/16/81)

decided: March 16, 1981.

MICHAEL DAUGHERTY ET AL.
v.
JAMES LILLIE ET AL. JAMES LILLIE, EDWARD KLOTZ, JAMES TEMPERO, WILLIAM MCCABE, ELIAS ABBOTT, JOSEPH BRIDGES AND RAYMOND GROSS, AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE TOWNSHIP OF NORTH HUNTINGTON, APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County in the case of Michael Daugherty, William Wetzler and Duane Kusera, as individuals and as members of the Township of North Huntington Police Department v. James Lillie, Edward Klotz, James Tempero, William McCabe, Elias Abbott, Joseph Bridges and Raymond Gross, as members of the Board of Commissioners of the Township of North Huntington, No. 765 of 1976.

COUNSEL

Thomas P. Cole, II, for appellants.

Thomas A. Kovalchick, George, Wasson, Sekula, Kovalchick & Irwin, for appellees.

Judges Rogers, Blatt and Williams, Jr. Judges Wilkinson, Jr., MacPhail and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 511]

In December of 1975, the policemen of North Huntington Township were granted a $900.00 across the board increase plus other fringe benefits pursuant to an Arbitration Award. The Arbitration Award followed the rejection by the policemen of a final offer of a $600.00 across the board increase made by the Board of Commissioners of the Township of North Huntington (Board).

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 512]

On January 14, 1976, allegedly for "reasons of economy," the Board terminated the employment of four policemen, effective January 31, 1976. In March of 1976, Michael Daugherty, William Wetzler, and Duane Kucera, appellees here, filed a complaint in Mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County seeking their reinstatement as policemen for the township. Appellees alleged that their dismissals from the force were not for economic reasons, but were in retaliation for the Arbitration Award. The court below ordered the Board to reinstate the policemen with back pay effective as of July 1, 1976. Appellants filed exceptions to that order and were heard by the court en banc on March 30, 1979. By order of December 14, 1979, the court dismissed those exceptions, and this appeal followed.

Section 644 of the First Class Township Code, 53 P.S. § 55644 (Act)*fn1 sets forth the procedure which a township such as North Huntington must follow to reduce the number of paid employees of the police or fire force. The furloughing of such employees is authorized under the Act only "for reasons of economy or other reasons . . . deemed necessary."

Under the law of this Commonwealth, the sole limitation imposed upon the power of a municipality to act in the reduction of its police civil service force for economy or other reasons is that it must act in good faith. Kraftician v. Borough of Carnegie, 35 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 470, 386 A.2d 1064 (1978).

The Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County determined that the dismissals of the North Huntington Township policemen were not for economic reasons, but were based upon an unfounded economic fear compounded by a distasteful Arbitration Award. The court further determined that the

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 513]

    township budget resulted in a $181,000.00 end-of-year surplus; and that the Commissioners should have recalled all the policemen on or before July 1, 1976, since it should have been evident at that time that a large surplus would result at the end of the year 1976. We believe there is ...


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