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J. STEPHEN LITTLE v. JAMES R. FREEMAN (12/11/84)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: December 11, 1984.

J. STEPHEN LITTLE, APPELLANT
v.
JAMES R. FREEMAN, ESQUIRE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in case of J. Stephen Little v. James R. Freeman, Esquire, District Attorney of Chester County, Pennsylvania, No. 101 July Term, 1982.

COUNSEL

William J. Gallagher, with him, Mary Ann Rossi, MacElree, Harvey, Gallagher, O'Donnell & Featherman, Ltd.

James P. MacElree, II, District Attorney of Chester County, with him, Francis J. Capaldo, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

Judges Rogers, Doyle and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 379]

Appellant, J. Stephen Little, appeals from a decision in a declaratory judgment action*fn1 in which the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County held that Appellant's position as Mayor of the Borough of Kennett Square created the appearance of a conflict of interest with Appellant's employment as a private investigator.

Appellant is the duly elected Mayor of the Borough of Kennett Square, and is also employed as a private investigator under the license of James Richard

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 380]

Schaefer.*fn2 Appellant brought an action for declaratory judgment upon the belief that the Chester County District Attorney (Appellee) was considering action to revoke the license of Mr. Schaefer based upon an actual or apparent conflict of interest created by Appellant's position as mayor.*fn3 Appellant submitted an affidavit in which he stated that as mayor he has potential access to certain police records,*fn4 but that neither he, nor any other employee under the license of Mr. Schaefer, would conduct private investigations in the Borough of Kennett Square. Cross motions for summary judgment were filed, and summary judgment was granted in favor of Appellee. Appellant's exceptions to the court's judgment were denied, and appeal to this Court followed.

We affirm on the basis of the able and well reasoned opinion of Judge Robert S. Gawthrop, III in Little v. Freeman, Pa. D. & C. 3d (1983), and cite with approval the court's holding that despite Appellant's intention not to conduct private investigations in the Borough of Kennett Square, his position as mayor of that borough creates at least the appearance of a conflict of interest with his position as a private investigator, and that, where public officials are involved, even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided. See Commonwealth v. Gregg, 262 Pa. Superior Ct. 364, 396 A.2d 797 (1979); Stanley Appeal, 204 Pa. Superior Ct. 29, 201 A.2d 287 (1964).

[ 86 Pa. Commw. Page 381]

Order

Now, December 11, 1984, the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County in the above referred matter, dated November 8, 1983, is hereby affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.


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