Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Glenn C. Jones v. The County of Allegheny, The Allegheny County Board of Commissioners, The Honorable Thomas J. Foerster, Chairman, and The Honorable Peter F. Flaherty and The Honorable Barbara H. Hafer, Members of the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners, No. GD 85-11515.
Robert L. McTiernan, Assistant County Solicitor, with him, James J. Dodaro, County Solicitor, for appellants.
S. Michael Streib, with him, Glenn Jones, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 648]
The Allegheny County Commissioners*fn1 appeal an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court order denying their motion for post-trial relief from a judgment in mandamus enjoining them from removing Glenn C. Jones as a member of the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment, Appeals and Review (Board). We affirm.
The Commissioners appointed Jones to the Board for a six-year term commencing January 1, 1983. There are seven members of the Board serving staggered terms (terms expiring in separate years). The Commissioners adopted a policy requiring that "all County employees shall be required to retire at age seventy. . . ." (Emphasis added.) Jones was eighty-one years old when
[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 649]
this policy went into effect. The Commissioners notified him that, pursuant to this policy, he would have to vacate his membership on the Board. Jones responded by bringing an action in mandamus which resulted in the order from which the Commissioners now appeal.
Our scope of review of a common pleas court order in a mandamus action is limited to determining whether there was an error of law or an abuse of discretion. Trinisewski v. Hudock, 90 Pa. Commonwealth Ct., 159, 494 A.2d 504 (1985).
The Commissioners contend that Jones is removable at their will, relying upon Section 450 of the Second Class County Code,*fn2 which states that appointees to county office are removable at the appointing power's pleasure. We disagree.
Our Supreme Court in Watson v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 386 Pa. 117, 125 A.2d 354 (1956), held that where the legislature mandates the appointment of officials to staggered terms, the appointing power designated by the legislature (in that case the Governor) may not remove an official at its pleasure.*fn3 As in Watson, the legislature has decreed that Board members shall serve staggered terms. Section 2(c) of the Act of July 21, 1939 (Act).*fn4 The language of ...