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HONORABLE THOMAS D. LARSON v. PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION ET AL. (12/05/84)

decided: December 5, 1984.

HONORABLE THOMAS D. LARSON, AS SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND AS A MEMBER EX OFFICIO OF THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION ET AL., RESPONDENTS



Original jurisdiction in case of Honorable Thomas D. Larson, as Secretary of Transportation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and as a member ex officio of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Honorable Jack I. Greenblat and Honorable Peter J. Camiel.

COUNSEL

Spencer A. Manthorpe, Chief Counsel, with him, Robert W. Cunliffe, Deputy Chief Counsel, and Carleton O. Strouss, Assistant Counsel, for petitioner.

Louis R. Martin, Chief Counsel, with him, Kevin F. Longenbach, Assistant Chief Counsel, and Jacqueline M. Verney, Assistant Chief Counsel, for respondent, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Harvey A. Sernovitz, for respondent, Honorable Jack I. Greenblat.

Richard A. Sprague, with him, M. Richard Komins and William K. Doak, Sprague, Levinson & Thall, for respondent, Honorable Peter J. Camiel.

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

Author: Crumlish

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 325]

Petitioner Thomas D. Larson, as Secretary of Transportation and as an ex-officio member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (Commission), and respondents, the Commission and Commissioner Peter J. Camiel, by cross-motion request summary judgment on Secretary Larson's petition for review in the nature of a complaint in equity seeking to enjoin

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 326]

    the Commission and Commissioner Camiel from hiring any personnel, paying any personnel hired on or after February 7, 1984, or paying any bills incurred by the Commission without first obtaining the affirmative vote of at least three sitting Commissioners.*fn1

As the material facts are well-developed and undisputed by the parties, it is appropriate for us to grant summary judgment to whomever is so entitled as a matter of law. Scheetz v. Borough of Lansdale, 64 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 24, 438 A.2d 1048 (1982). More importantly, it is incumbent upon us to promptly resolve this matter, as further delay might jeopardize the security to which the Commission's bondholders, the citizens of this Commonwealth and the users of the turnpike system are entitled. For the reasons to follow, we grant the Commission's and Commissioner Camiel's motion for summary judgment and deny Secretary Larson's motion for summary judgment.

Procedural and Substantive History

This controversy developed in October 1983, when, due to vacancies within the Commission's membership, the surviving members could not by a majority vote agree on the procedure by which the affairs of the Commission would be conducted. Specifically in dispute were the hiring of personnel and the payment of obligations due and owing on contracts previously approved by the Commission. This impasse, in time, became so intractable that by early 1984 total ineffectiveness of the Commission threatened its viability.

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 327]

The disruptive consequences of this state of its affairs gave rise to the extraordinary conduct of which petitioner now complains.

Chairman Jack I. Greenblat,*fn2 responding to the dual crises of inadequate manpower and non-payment of debt and only after the conclusion of yet another unproductive Commission meeting, directed the hiring of temporary employees and the payment of all bills then outstanding. In support of this unilateral action, Chairman Greenblat stated:

I consider this situation to be intolerable to the Commission, to the staff, to the bondholders, to the Trustee, people to whom we owe money. At my direction, the Chief Counsel has reviewed the authority of the position as Chairman in the Enabling Act, The Trust Indenture, The Rules and Regulations for the Governing of the Commission, and the history of the Commission's delegation of various operational functions. He has determined that I, as Chairman, have sufficient authority to order the immediate payment of all bills and the hiring of employees on a temporary basis to aleviate [sic] this emergency situation and maintain appropriate effeciency [sic] in accordance with toll road standards. It is my best business judgment that this action must be taken. . . .*fn3

With the Commissioners' deadlock evidently not having been resolved by their next meeting on February 28, 1984, Chairman Greenblat pursued his earlier course by ordering the payment of approximately $2,500,000 in outstanding Commission bills.*fn4

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 328]

The Commission's Executive Director and Comptroller, in compliance with Chairman Greenblat's directions, hired temporary employees, paid the salaries of these employees, and paid the bills then due.

On March 5, 1984, Secretary Larson filed this complaint seeking to preliminarily enjoin these actions. On March 8, 1984, we held an expedited hearing on this motion, and on August 28, 1984, by Opinion and Order we denied the Secretary's motion for preliminary injunction.

In the interim, the office of Commission Chairman became vacant when Chairman Greenblat resigned.*fn5 Reorganization of the Commission by the election of officers, on motion of Secretary Larson's designated representative, was deferred until a fourth member should qualify.*fn6

Following our August 28, 1984 Order and Opinion denying preliminary injunctive relief, Commissioner Camiel, asserting his authority as Vice-Chairman pending reorganization and the election of a Chairman, pursuant to paragraph 7 of the Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Commission (rules and regulations),*fn7 directed the hiring of personnel to alleviate shortages deemed "critical" by the Commission's

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 329]

Executive Director.*fn8 Commissioner Camiel also directed the deletion of certain items from the Commission's agenda which he deemed unnecessary by his interpretation of our August 28, 1984 Opinion and Order.

Challenging Mr. Camiel's directives, Secretary Larson then filed a motion in this Court seeking special injunctive relief. We denied this motion by Order dated September 5, 1984 and scheduled a September 7, 1984 hearing on the Secretary's motion for a preliminary ...


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