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HAROLD OLSON v. BOROUGH HOMESTEAD (04/14/82)

decided: April 14, 1982.

HAROLD OLSON, APPELLANT
v.
BOROUGH OF HOMESTEAD, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Harold Olson v. Borough of Homestead, No. GD 76-8049.

COUNSEL

Dennis Paul Zawacki, with him Ronald P. Koerner, Gatz, Cohen, Segal and Koerner, for appellant.

Arnold M. Epstein, Weisman, Pass and Swartz, for appellee.

Judges Mencer, Williams, Jr. and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr. Judge MacPhail dissents. Judge Palladino did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Williams

[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 121]

In September 1975 the Borough of Homestead, Allegheny County, dismissed Harold G. Olson from its police force, following his conviction of certain offenses. More than 2 years after his removal, Olson petitioned the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County to order his reinstatement to the Borough police force and to award him back pay. The basis of that petition was the fact that, subsequent to Olson's

[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 122]

    removal from the police force, the judgments of conviction in the criminal case were arrested, and his criminal record was ordered expunged. When the lower court denied the relief sought by Olson, he filed the instant appeal.

As of early 1975 Harold G. Olson held the rank of sergeant on the Borough police force, and had served on the force for about 17 years. In March of 1975, he was arrested on charges of indecently assaulting his 13 year-old stepdaughter and corrupting her morals. Following Olson's arraignment on those charges, he was suspended from the police force by the Borough mayor, effective March 21, 1975.

On September 8, 1975, Olson was found guilty of the criminal charges by Judge George Ross, of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, sitting without a jury. In the trial the sole evidence of Olson's guilt was the testimony of the stepdaughter. Olson was sentenced to an 8 month term of probation;*fn1 upon being sentenced he filed an appeal.

On September 16, 1975, the Borough council held a meeting, attended by Olson, to consider his status as a police officer in light of the criminal conviction. Olson requested the council to postpone taking any action until after his criminal appeal had been decided. That request, however, was denied. The council voted to remove Olson from the police force: on the grounds that he had committed a violation of law constituting a misdemeanor or felony; had engaged in immorality; and had engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer. Each of those grounds is a statutory basis for removal, under Section 1190 of The Borough Code.*fn2 To support

[ 66 Pa. Commw. Page 123]

    the removal of Olson on those grounds, the only evidence presented to the council was a certified copy ...


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