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JOSEPH J. BONDI v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (10/12/83)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: October 12, 1983.

JOSEPH J. BONDI, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT. JOSEPH L. SMITH, PETITIONER V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT. WILLIAM L. DIETRICH, PETITIONER V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT. GERALD D. JEANNETTE, PETITIONER V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, RESPONDENT

Appeals from the Orders of the State Civil Service Commission in the cases of Joseph J. Bondi v. Department of Transportation, Appeal No. 2853; William L. Dietrich v. Department of Transportation, Appeal No. 2854; Gerald D. Jeannette v. Department of Transportation, Appeal No. 2856; and Joseph L. Smith v. Department of Transportation, Appeal No. 2857.

COUNSEL

Jay D. Glasser, Hollinshead and Mendelson, with him T. Lawrence Palmer, for petitioners.

Michael McCarey, with him Mark Hodgeman, Louis G. Cocheres, Assistant Attorney General, and Ward T. Williams, Chief Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr. and Craig, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Williams, Jr.

Author: Williams

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 477]

This is a consolidated appeal of four former, regular status Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) employes (Petitioners) from Civil Service Commission (Commission) orders sustaining their furloughs under the Civil Service Act (Act).*fn1

By memorandum dated July 1, 1977, the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) notified District Engineers and Bureau Directors of the cancellation of DOT's federally, and state bond, financed twelve year

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 478]

    highway construction and maintenance program (12-year program). The 12-year program was discontinued as result of the Secretary's decision to cease state bond financing, because of the Legislature's failure to allocate revenue sufficient to fund properly DOT's other projects. Petitioners were furloughed November 8, 1978, as a consequence of the 12-year program's cancellation. This consolidated appeal from the Commission's orders upholding the furloughs followed.

Section 704 of the Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S. § 704, requires this Court to affirm Commission adjudications unless constitutional rights are violated, errors of law are committed or necessary findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence. Forbes v. PennDOT, 61 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 641, 643, 434 A.2d 892, 894 (1981).

"Furlough" is defined as "a termination of employment because of lack of funds or work." Section 741.3(s) of the Act, 71 P.S. § 741.3(s). DOT, as the Appointing Authority, is burdened with proving a prima facie case justifying Petitioners' furloughs. 4 Pa. Code § 105.15. DOT has successfully met this burden.

Petitioners assert first that, contrary to the Commission's findings and absent legislatively mandated funding reductions, their furloughs resulted not from a funding shortfall, but from the 12-year program's cancellation because of the Secretary's arbitrary decision to discontinue bond financing.

The Secretary's memorandum of July 1, 1977, and the uncontroverted testimony of DOT's Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration and Executive Assistant to the Secretary establish that the program's bond financing was terminated upon the Legislature's failure to enact new taxes necessary to satisfy DOT's additional funding requirements. The monies therefore saved were applied to pay for the increasing costs of other DOT programs. The Secretary's decision

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 479]

    to halt bond sales for reasons of economy was a rational and legitimate response to DOT's straitened circumstances. Neither this Court nor the Commission may substitute its judgment for that of department officials in matters germane to departmental economy and efficiency. Department of Public Welfare v. Magrath, 14 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 257, 321 A.2d 403 (1974). We therefore find substantial evidence supportive of those findings from which the Commission concluded the existence of a lack of funds.*fn2 Sharp v. PennDOT, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 522, 447 A.2d 1057 (1982); Forbes.

On October 17, 1977, Petitioners were reclassified to either a "rank and file" classification in a nonsupervisory bargaining unit or a management classification in a supervisory bargaining unit. In accordance with then controlling collective bargaining agreements, seniority, for furloughs purposes, was calculated as "bargaining unit seniority."*fn3 Thus, the seniority Petitioners accrued prior to their reclassifications, when they belonged to bargaining units different from those to which they were assigned when furloughed, was not credited to the seniority earned after their classifications.

[ 77 Pa. Commw. Page 480]

Petitioners argue that they were improperly furloughed because the reclassification notices failed to inform them of their surrender of seniority garnered prior to their reclassifications. While Section 741.950 of the Act, 71 P.S. § 741.950, requires that classified service employes be provided with written notice of any personnel actions taken with respect to them; and assuming, without deciding, that reclassification is a personnel action requiring written notice,*fn4 neither Section 741.950 of the Act nor the Commission's regulations at 4 Pa. Code § 105.3 require that Petitioners be apprised of the myriad consequences of this personnel action.

Accordingly, we affirm the Commission's orders.

Order

And Now, this 12th day of October, 1983, the orders of the State Civil Service Commission in the above-captioned matter are affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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