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JOHN H. TEGZES v. TOWNSHIP BRISTOL (03/15/84)

decided: March 15, 1984.

JOHN H. TEGZES, APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF BRISTOL, APPELLEE. TOWNSHIP OF BRISTOL, V. JOHN H. TEGZES BRISTOL TOWNSHIP CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, APPELLANT V. TOWNSHIP OF BRISTOL, APPELLANT, V. JOHN H. TEGZES, APPELLEE



No. 84 E.D. Appeal Dkt. 1983, Appeal from the Orders of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania dated April 13, 1983 (Equity No. 1367 C.D. 1982, 1525 C.D. 1982, 1526 C.D. 1982) affirming the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 82-0589-05-5, dated May 27, 1982, Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ.

Author: Zappala

[ 504 Pa. Page 306]

OPINION

Appellant, John H. Tegzes, is a police officer employed by Appellee, the Township of Bristol, a first class township in Bucks County. Prior to September 12, 1979, Appellant held the rank of detective. On that date the Board of Commissioners of the Township (hereafter Board) passed a resolution nominating him for the position of chief of police. Appellant indicated that if he was to be chief, he wished to hold the position under civil service status. The Board indicated its agreement and referred him to the Bristol Township Civil Service Commission for noncompetitive testing. This was done pursuant to the First Class Township

[ 504 Pa. Page 307]

Code, Act of June 24, 1931, P.L. 1206, Art. VI, § 638, added by Act of May 27, 1949, P.L. 1955 § 20, 53 P.S. § 55638, which provides as follows:

In the case of a vacancy in the office of chief of police or chief of the fire department or equivalent official, the township commissioners may nominate a person to the commission. It shall thereupon become the duty of the commission to subject such person to a non-competitive examination and if such person shall be certified by the commission as qualified he may then be appointed to such position and thereafter shall be subject to all the provisions of this subdivision.

The Civil Service Commission conducted a non-competitive examination and certified on December 18, 1979 that Appellant was qualified for the position of chief of police. The Board ratified the appointment at a meeting on December 20. The Board purported to hire Appellant as chief under a two-year contract. However, members of the Board stated at the ratification meeting that they understood Appellant's passage of the examination conferred civil service status on him. The Board treated Appellant and held him out as a civil service employee and gave him all benefits and rights associated with such status.

On January 4, 1982, the Board ordered Appellant demoted to his former rank of detective. It did so on the basis of the expiration of the purported two-year contract. It did not file charges. Appellant challenged the demotion before the Civil Service Commission. The Commission held that Appellant was a civil service employee and could not be demoted without charges being filed. As no charges were filed, the Commission ordered Appellant reinstated as chief. The Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County reversed, holding that because no charges were filed, the Civil Service Commission did not have jurisdiction over the matter. The Commonwealth Court, 73 Pa. Commw. 412, 457 A.2d 1348 affirmed the Order of the Court of Common Pleas. We granted a petition for allowance of appeal.

[ 504 Pa. Page 308]

Our review of the actions of a municipal civil service commission is limited. Where a full and complete record is made of the proceedings before a municipal civil service commission, a reviewing court must affirm the adjudication of the commission unless it is in violation of the constitutional rights of the appellant or not in accordance with law, the procedural provisions of the local agency law are violated, or a finding of fact of the commission necessary to support its adjudication is not supported by substantial evidence, Local Agency Law, Act of April 28, 1978, P.L. 202, No. 53, § 5, 2 P.C.S.A. § 754, accord, Wicker v. Civil Service Commission, 74 Pa. Commw. 548, 460 A.2d 407 (1983).

Appellant argues that he was a civil service employee and could not be demoted without charges being filed and that the matter was properly decided by the Civil Service Commission. Appellee argues that Appellant's appointment as chief of police was not under civil service, that he was therefore demotable without the filing of charges, and that the Commission had no power to act in regard to a non-civil service employee. This case is governed by that part of the First Class Township Code that deals with appointments of police officers and firefighters, Art. VI §§ 625-650, 53 P.S. §§ 55625-55650. Appointments and promotions may be made "only according to qualifications and fitness to be ascertained by examinations . . . as . . . provided", § 625, 53 P.S. § 55625. A civil service commission is created in each township where the act applies, § 626, 53 P.S. § 55626. The commission is empowered "to make investigations concerning all matters touching the administration and enforcement of the civil service provisions of . . . (the act) and rules and regulations adopted thereunder, § 32, 53 P.S. § 55632. Positions are filled by examinations to determine fitness, § 635, as amended by act of December 4, 1980, P.L. 1101, No. 188, § 2, 53 P.S. § 55635. Examinations are competitive except in the case of an appointment of a chief of a police or fire department or the equivalent. In such case, the township commissioners may nominate an appointee to

[ 504 Pa. Page 309]

    the civil service commission. The commission must conduct a non-competitive examination to determine the nominee's fitness for the position § 638, 53 P.S. § 55638. Section 644, as amended by Act of October 4, 1978, P.L. 946, No. 186, § 2, 53 P.S. § 55644, provides that no police officer or firefighter may be suspended, removed or reduced in rank except for certain enumerated causes and that a written statement of charges must be furnished to ...


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