Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of Jean Bootes, Case No. 74788-C.
William Tabbart, with him Gretchen Regenhardt, for petitioner.
Mary Frances Grabowski, for respondent.
Judges Mencer, Williams, Jr. and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. This decision was reached prior to the expiration of the term of office of Judge Palladino.
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 174]
Petitioner, Jean M. Bootes, appeals from a fair hearing decision of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). In that decision, the DPW denied Petitioner's appeal from a determination of the County Assistance Office (CAO) which rejected Petitioner's application, or "good cause" claim, to be excused from pursuing a support action against the putative father of one of her children.
Petitioner is a recipient of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) for herself and two minor children. On February 26, 1980, Ms. Bootes
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 175]
instituted proceedings against Daniel Kay, the putative father of her son, Daniel A. Kay, to obtain child support. According to Ms. Bootes, the institution of the support proceedings was followed by personal harassment, in the form of obscene phone calls, banging noises on her doors and windows, and lewd and accusatory letters. In March, 1980, Petitioner contacted the CAO to report the incidents of harassment. Shortly thereafter, she visited the CAO to inquire about initiating a good cause claim to excuse her from pursuing the support action against Mr. Kay.*fn1
On March 18, 1980, Petitioner was notified by letter that she had twenty (20) days to provide sworn statements to establish her good cause claim. That same day, the CAO instructed the Bureau of Claim Settlement to discontinue the support action against Mr. Kay until further notice. On March 27, 1980, Ms. Bootes submitted the requested documentation. A notarized letter signed by Ms. Bootes and several other individuals*fn2 was sent to the CAO. In that letter, Ms. Bootes stated that she and her children had "become the object of undue verbal harassment and duress since initiating the support proceedings." That information was forwarded to the Bureau of Claim Settlement which subsequently approved Petitioner's good cause claim. On May 8, 1980, upon review of Petitioner's good cause claim, the CAO requested additional documentary evidence to substantiate the application. When the Petitioner advised the CAO that no additional evidence was available, her claim was denied.
Petitioner filed a timely appeal from the CAO's decision, and a fair hearing was held on the matter. On
[ 64 Pa. Commw. Page 176]
August 6, 1980, the Hearing Examiner denied Petitioner's appeal, ruling that Petitioner had failed to establish that the pursuit of the support action would cause her to "suffer sufficient mental distress so as to impair her ability to care for ...