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JAMES CHIRICO v. BOARD SUPERVISORS FOR NEWTON TOWNSHIP (12/30/83)

decided: December 30, 1983.

JAMES CHIRICO, THOMAS NEWBY, III, BRIAN MCNEILL, APPELLANTS-APPELLEES,
v.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS FOR NEWTON TOWNSHIP, APPELLEE-APPELLANT



Nos. 66, 67 E.D. Appeal Dkt. 1982, Cross Appeals from the Order of the Commonwealth Court dated December 31, 1981, entered at Nos. 3008 and 3086 C.D. 1980, Affirming in Part and Reversing in Part the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County dated November 13, 1980, entered at No. 6023 of 1975, 63 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 591, Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Roberts, C.j., concurs in the result. Hutchinson, J., would affirm on the opinion of the Commonwealth Court, Author: Nix

[ 504 Pa. Page 72]

OPINION

These appeals raise two issues: 1) may a dispute regarding the interpretation of a provision of an arbitration award be resolved in an action in mandamus for enforcement of

[ 504 Pa. Page 73]

    the arbitration award, and 2) may the question of an alleged illegal provision in an arbitration award be addressed in the enforcement action when no appeal was taken from the issuance of the award. The Commonwealth Court, 63 Pa. Commw. 591, 439 A.2d 1281, held that the remedy for resolution of disputes regarding interpretation of an arbitration award is further arbitration. We agree and affirm. The Commonwealth Court also held that it is fatal not to appeal from an arbitration award asserted to be illegal. Under the instant facts, we disagree and reverse.

I.

Following an impasse in collective bargaining between the Newton Township Police Department (Department) and the Board of Supervisors for Newton Township (Township), a board of arbitrators was appointed pursuant to the Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, N. 111, 43 P.S. 217.1, (Act 111). The board entered an award on December 27, 1974, establishing the terms and conditions of employment for the police officers for the calendar year 1975 (1975 award). On May 5, 1975, the Department filed a complaint in mandamus in the court of common pleas to compel the Township to implement certain provisions of the 1975 award. While this action was pending, on November 29, 1975, another board of arbitrators entered an award for the calendar year 1976 (1976 award), which was incorporated into the instant action by an amended complaint. Neither party filed an appeal from either of these awards.

The court of common pleas, after interpreting the meaning of the phrase "vacation week", refused to enforce certain ambiguous provisions of the awards to the extent that such provisions in its opinion were contrary to law.

The Department appealed to the Commonwealth Court from that part of the trial court's order interpreting "vacation week". The Township cross-appealed from the trial court's determination regarding the legality of certain provisions in the awards. The Commonwealth Court held that the common pleas court did not have jurisdiction to interpret

[ 504 Pa. Page 74]

    a provision of an award, because interpretation is within the province of the arbitrators. The Commonwealth Court also held that the defense of illegality of award provisions may not be raised outside the appeals process. That Court thus reversed the trial court's refusal to enforce certain aspects of the provisions alleged to be illegal.

II.

Considering the issue presented by the cross-appeal first, we reaffirm this Court's well-settled position regarding the enforcement of an illegal provision of an arbitration award. In this Commonwealth arbitration panels may not mandate that a governing body carry out an illegal act. Conley v. Joyce, 482 Pa. 263, 269, 393 A.2d 654, 657 (1978), Washington Arbitration Case, 436 Pa. 168, 177, 259 A.2d 437, 442 (1969). See, City of York v. Reihart, 475 Pa. 151, 379 A.2d 1328 (1977). See also Grottenthaler v. Pennsylvania State Police, 488 Pa. 19, 410 A.2d 806 (1980) (dictum). The 1975 award provided for the payment of sixty-five percent of salary for a non-service connected disability pension.*fn1 The 1976 award established, prior to an actuarial study, elective retirement at age ...


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