Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County in case of Bernard M. Madeja and Daniel Davies v. Whitehall Township and Edward J. Galgon, Township Executive, No. 79-C-2928.
Stephen C. Richman, with him Quintes D. Taglioli, for appellant.
Harry A. Kitey, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.
Bernard M. Madeja has appealed from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County affirming his discharge from employment by the Township of Whitehall (Township).
As of April 25, 1979, Bernard Madeja was employed in the Traffic Control Division of the Township's Bureau of Public Works. On April 25, 1979, a piece of Township equipment, a payloader, was found to have a slashed tire. The damage was discovered while the payloader was parked in front of the Township garage. That same day, April 25th, the Assistant Township Executive*fn1 was told about the slashed tire; as a result, he convened a meeting of employees to discuss the property damage. At that meeting, which took place the same day the damage
was discovered, the Assistant Township Executive asked Bernard Madeja and another employee, Daniel Davies, what they knew about the damaged tire. However, both men denied any awareness of the matter. The Assistant Township Executive then told the two men that they had been observed cutting the tire; he also told them they were dismissed. Subsequently, both Madeja and Davies received an official letter, dated April 25, 1979, confirming his dismissal. Each of the two employees was advised, by his letter, that his discharge was based on the report of his guilt in the tire slashing.
On June 4, 1979, the Township afforded Madeja and Davies a hearing pursuant to Section 553 of the Local Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 553. At that hearing the Township presented the following evidence. The Assistant Township Executive testified that, upon being told about the tire on April 25, 1979, his inspection of the tire revealed a slash of approximately twenty or twenty-four inches long, and three or four centimeters deep. This witness further testified that, after receiving certain information about who slashed the tire, he called the meeting at which he confronted Madeja and Davies with the information and then fired them. The Assistant Township Executive also testified as to how the two men had proclaimed their ignorance of the tire damage when he first asked them about the matter. As an additional point of testimony, the Assistant Township Executive stated that, about two weeks after the tire incident, Mr. Davies admitted to him that he had cut the tire and offered to make restitution.
Also called as a Township witness was a Township mechanic, Thomas Evans. Mr. Evans was presented as an eyewitness to the actual slashing of the tire. This witness testified that he saw the incident
occur during the early afternoon of April 25, 1979, while he was standing about twenty yards from the payloader. According to Evans' testimony, Madeja and Davies came out of the Township garage together about 12:45 P.M. on the day in question, and then approached the payloader. Next, according to Evans, Madeja made a gesture toward the tire as if he was marking a spot on it, and Davies followed with taking out a knife and cutting the tire. Evans further testified that, when Davies cut the tire, Madeja applauded; and that the two men then left the scene together. This witness also stated that, immediately upon the departure of ...