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APPEAL SHERIFF EUGENE L. COON FROM DECISION CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY POLICE AND FIREMEN. EUGENE L. COON (07/14/81)

decided: July 14, 1981.

IN RE: APPEAL OF SHERIFF EUGENE L. COON FROM THE DECISION OF THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION FOR ALLEGHENY COUNTY POLICE AND FIREMEN. EUGENE L. COON, APPELLANT


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of In Re: Appeal of Willie Bowman, Deputy Sheriff, No. S.A. 541 of 1980.

COUNSEL

Norman Paul Wolken, Wolken & Landy, for appellant.

Leonard I. Sharon, Sharon & Sharon, for appellee.

President Judge Crumlish and Judges Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish.

Author: Crumlish

[ 60 Pa. Commw. Page 505]

Allegheny County Sheriff Eugene L. Coon appeals the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court's approval of an Allegheny County Civil Service Commission for Police and Firemen decision rejecting the Sheriff's discharge of Deputy Sheriff Willie Bowman. We affirm.

On December 14, 1979, Bowman received a letter of discharge from the Sheriff enumerating nine specific charges of misconduct, insubordination, conduct unbecoming an officer, and criminal conduct occurring while on special assignment to the Drug Enforcement Agency Task Force in 1976 and with the Sheriff's Department from 1976 through 1979.*fn1 After several

[ 60 Pa. Commw. Page 506]

    hearings and the taking of extensive testimony from witnesses, police officers, and deputy sheriffs, the Commission reluctantly concluded that the serious incidents cited by the Sheriff were not supported by competent or credible evidence and therefore could not justify the discipline imposed. Noting that Bowman should consider himself "a most fortunate person," the Commission strongly indicated its "hope that the Sheriff's office would develop a better program of personnel direction and disciplinary measures, so that a record of discipline can be adequately presented to us. It is only the inadequate presentation and lack of evidence which leads us to our findings and decision."

After review and oral argument based upon the administrative record, the lower court found substantial evidentiary support for the Commission's decision and ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits. The Sheriff appeals.

Our decisions have clearly delineated the Civil Service Commission's authority in matters of disciplinary action. If the charges on which a removal is based relate to the merits of the employee's work performance and if the charges are supported by the Commission's own findings, the Commission must uphold the Sheriff's disciplinary action. Only if the charges are not verified may the Commission modify the Sheriff's action by reinstating the employee with or without back pay. Omelchenko v. Housing Authority of the County of Lebanon, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 494, 428 A.2d 274 (1981).

Our own meticulous review of the record indeed reveals that the Commission was faced with evidence that was wholly inadequate to sustain the Sheriff's burden of proving justification for the ...


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