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ROBERT W. RICE v. BOARD DIRECTORS EASTON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT (07/18/85)

decided: July 18, 1985.

ROBERT W. RICE, APPELLANT
v.
THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE EASTON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County in case of Robert W. Rice v. The Board of Directors of the Easton Area School District, No. 1983-C-330.

COUNSEL

Cregg E. Mayrosh, Cohn & Mayrosh, for appellant.

Elwood M. Malos, for appellee.

Judges Craig and Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.

Author: Colins

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 448]

This is an appeal by Robert W. Rice (appellant) from an opinion and order of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County dismissing his appeal from the decision of the Easton Area School Board (School Board) which terminated his employment pursuant to Section 514 of the Public School Code of 1949 (Code), Act of March 10, 1949, P.L. 30, as amended, 24 P.S. § 5-514.

Appellant was employed as a custodian for the Easton Area School District (School District). On October 13, 1982, he was charged by the Easton Police Department with making a series of anonymous and harassing telephone calls to another custodian. This conduct, if proven, would be in violation of Section 5504 of the Crimes Code, 18 Pa. C.S. § 5504, Harassment by Communication. Also on that same date, appellant was sent a letter from William C. Pfeffer, Jr., the Director of Personnel of the School District, informing him that as of October 13, 1982, he was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal charges against him and that if convicted, he would be involuntarily terminated. On October 15, 1982, appellant was sent another letter from Mr. Pfeffer. This letter indicated that a recommendation would be made to the School Board for termination of appellant's employment at its next regular meeting on October 25, 1982.

At its October 25, 1982, meeting, the School Board deferred action on appellant's termination. On October 26, 1982, appellant was bound over to Court on the criminal charges. Thereafter, by letter dated November 9, 1982, from Dr. Frances J. Rhodes, Superintendent

[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 449]

    of Schools, appellant was notified that at its regular meeting on November 8, 1982, the School Board had voted 8 to 0 to involuntarily terminate him. The letter also advised appellant that he was entitled to a hearing and that if he requested one, to notify the School District in writing no later than November 16, 1982. Pursuant to appellant's request, a hearing was held on December 6, 1982, at which time the School District presented their case. Appellant, however, decided not to present any evidence or testimony due to the pendency of the criminal proceedings. The School Board on December 13, 1982, affirmed its prior action terminating appellant. Appellant filed a timely appeal with the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County which was dismissed on May 27, 1983.

Our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether there was an error of law, a violation of constitutional rights, or whether there is substantial evidence to support the necessary findings of fact. Bedeski v. Greater Nanticoke Area School District, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 400, 427 A.2d 1269 (1981).

Appellant argues that his termination for allegedly making harassing telephone calls to a fellow employee was not supported by substantial evidence. The record indicates otherwise.

At the hearing, the victim testified that appellant was the only custodian with whom she did not get along; that she began receiving anonymous telephone calls on July 1, 1982; that in September of 1982, the calls on Monday through Friday came between 6:00 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.; that she requested the telephone company, in September of 1982, to install a tap on her line; that fifty-six (56) calls were recorded from July, 1982, until October, 1982; that essentially all of the calls came in between ...


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