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decided: April 6, 1983.


Appeal from the Order of the State Civil Service Commission in case of John E. Hoffman, Jr. v. Department of Health, Appeal No. 3247.


Betty F. Perry, Killian & Gephart, for petitioner.

Stephen D. Tompkins, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr. and Judges MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 285]

John Hoffman appeals a State Civil Service Commission (Commission) order which upheld his removal by the Department of Health (Department) for just cause. We affirm.

Hoffman was employed as a Public Health Executive II and was appointed to the probationary position of Director of the Division of Hospitals in April of 1979. In August 1979 his supervisor recommended permanent status. In the Personal Evaluation Report, however, the supervisor noted certain of Hoffman's shortcomings:

He appears to have several shortcomings. . . .

He requires explicit directions to do what is asked, that is his grasp of the situation appears limited at times. I still do not know if he understands what I propose to do relative to his division's plans since I have not seen anything yet and they were due August 1.*fn1 His grasp of what his own personnel do within his division is limited. When asked a question about a function or a position he relies upon his subordinates for answers. . . . Reliance upon one's subordinates is important, but the final answer must be the director's.

R.R. pp. 211a-212a.

Although his supervisor then recommended Hoffman for a permanent position, she noted that this was based on her belief that his performance would improve. However, a subsequent series of supervisor memoranda indicated a growing concern and frustration with Hoffman's inability or unwillingness to conform to her requirements. Finally, by letter dated February 11, 1981, the Secretary of Health removed Hoffman from his position, writing:

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 286]

It is my conclusion that because of your lack of judgment, lack of ability to make critical analyses, your lack of understanding of Division operations, and the subsequent need to excessively rely on your staff for decisions that you should make, and your inability or unwillingness to cooperate with Ms. Rieson, your supervisor, it is necessary for your employment to be terminated.

Hoffman appealed to the Commission, which affirmed, concluding that Hoffman had been removed for just cause under Section 807 of the Civil Service Act.*fn2

Before the Commission, the Department's burden was to prove that Hoffman's removal was for just cause.*fn3 That burden having been met, our scope of review is limited to determining whether the Commission's decision is in accord with the law, the necessary findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence and whether the appellant's constitutional rights were violated. Silvia v. Pennhurst Center, 63 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 75, 78, 437 A.2d 535, 536 (1981).

Section 807 of the Act requires that, "[n]o regular employe in the classified service shall be removed except for just cause."*fn4 This Court has held that removal for just cause must be merit-related.

"This means that any 'personnel action' carried out by the Commonwealth is to be scrutinized in the light of such merit criteria, as has the party failed to properly execute his duties, or has he done an act which hampers or frustrates the execution of same. The criteria must be job-related

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 287]

    and in some rational and logical manner touch upon competency and ability."

Laws v. Philadelphia County Board of Assistance, 50 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 340, 347, 412 A.2d 1377, 1381 (1980) (quoting Corder v. Civil Service Commission, 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 462, 467, 279 A.2d 368, 371 (1971)).

The record discloses that Hoffman's supervisor repeatedly sent memoranda to Hoffman citing reasons for her dissatisfaction with his performance. Despite repeated explanations of basic Department policy; repeated requests that he appear at meetings without the staff; complaints that his reports were often under-researched and his requests to the legal department were matters that he could have handled; and his reports and information were consistently late, no improvement was made.*fn5

Hoffman argues that there is not substantial evidence in the record to support the Commission's order*fn6 and that his supervisor initiated these groundless complaints. We disagree. The record is replete with testimony and memoranda detailing Hoffman's repeated failures:

Q. Do you agree that you and Ms. Riseon had different management styles?

A. Well, frankly, I'm not certain of what Ms. Riseon's management styles are, so I

[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 288]

    couldn't answer that. But I could tell you that I had a management style which involved participatory management with my people.

Q. Am I correct that that included your taking your people to meetings with Ms. Riseon?

A. Yes.

Q. In view of her request to you not to bring those additional people without her permission, why did you continue to bring them?

A. Well, as pointed out by Ms. Riseon, I did not bring them in the beginning of our association. But, frankly, I found that, at the conclusion of my personal meetings with Ms. Riseon, when I went back to my office to do what I thought Ms. Riseon had wanted me to do, it frequently turned out to be something different, so I wanted somebody there in addition to myself.

Hoffman's testimony clearly demonstrates his disregard of his supervisor's instructions. The record supports a pattern of merit-related behavior which we conclude rose to the level of just cause for Hoffman's dismissal.*fn7


[ 73 Pa. Commw. Page 289]


The State Civil Service Commission order, Appeal No. 3247 dated December 4, 1981, is hereby affirmed.



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