Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in case of C. Roy Mest, et al. v. Township of Perkiomen et al., No. 82-19552.
Sean P. Flynn, with him, Thomas E. Waters, Waters, Gallager & Trachtman, for appellants.
James R. Caiola, with him, Thomas L. Gowen, Caiola, Caiola & Gowen, for appellee, C. Roy Mest.
Leigh P. Narducci, Anderson, Narducci & Sullivan, for appellees, Lawrence T. Zimmerman, Shane T. Clark and William Patterson, Jr.
Judges Doyle and Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.
[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 308]
This is an appeal by the Township of Perkiomen (Township) and the Township's Board of Supervisors (Supervisors) (collectively, Appellants) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County (trial court) which ordered Appellants to re-establish the Township police department and to reinstate C. Roy Mest, Lawrence T. Zimmerman, Shane T. Clark and William Patterson, Jr. (Appellees) to their
[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 309]
positions as police officers with back pay from January 1, 1983. We affirm.
On November 7, 1982 the Township Supervisors, by a 4-1 vote, adopted a resolution that disbanded the Township police department as of midnight December 31, 1982 "due to fiscal constraints." The police force consisted of the four named Appellees: Mest, the chief of police; Zimmerman, a sergeant; Clark, a patrolman; and Patterson, a part-time officer. Appellees were officially notified of the resolution by certified mail on December 10, 1982. On January 5, 1983 Appellees filed a complaint in mandamus which alleged that the resolution was adopted by the Supervisors in bad faith and which sought the re-establishment of the police department, reinstatement to their positions and back pay.
The trial court held hearings on February 24 and 25, 1983, at which Appellees presented evidence in support of their position that the Supervisors' motive in disbanding the police force was to accomplish the removal of Chief Mest without complying with the provisions of the Police Tenure Act*fn1 and that the official reason given for the action, fiscal constraints, was not based on fact. The evidence presented by Appellees indicated that the Supervisors were dissatisfied with Chief Mest because of various incidents. Supervisor Olson was angry over a January, 1979 incident when a meeting between the police and the Supervisors had been taped and she considered Chief Mest to be responsible. Supervisor Kratz had expressed dissatisfaction with Chief Mest on several occasions. In February of 1982 Kratz told Officers Zimmerman and Clark that if they found any information to use against Chief Mest they should inform
[ 92 Pa. Commw. Page 310]
him. In October of 1982, Kratz told the same officers that: "They could not have another year with Chief Mest"; and "If they could not get rid of him personally, it was a lot easier to do away with the ...