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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD F. SANDERS (12/11/86)

decided: December 11, 1986.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, PETITIONER
v.
RICHARD F. SANDERS, RESPONDENT. RICHARD F. SANDERS, PETITIONER V. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, SOMERSET MENTAL RETARDATION UNIT, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeals from the Orders of the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission in the case of Richard F. Sanders v. Somerset Mental Retardation Unit, Department of Public Welfare, Appeal, No. 4379, dated August 28, 1985, and in the case of Richard F. Sanders v. Somerset State Hospital, Department of Public Welfare, Appeal, No. 4844, dated September 27, 1984.

COUNSEL

Howard Ulan, Assistant Counsel, with him, James S. Marshall, Assistant Counsel, for petitioner/respondent.

Kim R. Gibson, for respondent/petitioner.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Doyle, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 428]

Before us are consolidated appeals arising out of attempts by the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to remove Richard Sanders, a probationary employee, from employment. Sanders was originally removed from his position as Therapeutic Recreational Services Leader, probationary status, effective at the close of business on December 31, 1982 on the basis of unsatisfactory work performance. Sanders appealed his removal to the State Civil Service Commission (Commission) which, after a hearing, sustained the appeal in an order dated September 21, 1983. The Commission in that adjudication determined that Sanders' removal letter had not been signed by Sanders' appointing authority. That issue, however, was raised by the Commission sua sponte without notice to the parties after the record had been closed. The Commission directed that Sanders be reinstated, but without prejudice to the appointing Authority to take the removal action again. DPW appealed the Commission's order to this Court, arguing that the raising of the issue without notice to the parties violated due process. We agreed, reversed the Commission and remanded the case to it on October 24, 1984, directing it to issue an adjudication based upon allegations raised in either an original or properly amended appeal form. Somerset Mental Retardation Unit v. Sanders, 85 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 549, 483 A.2d 1018 (1984).

In the interim, Sanders was reinstated and was recalled to work by DPW on October 21, 1983; within one-half hour after reporting to work he was again removed from employment.

On remand from our order of October 24, 1984, the Commission took additional testimony on the signatory authority issue and again determined that the proper individual

[ 102 Pa. Commw. Page 429]

    had not signed Sanders' removal letter. It thus issued an order, dated August 28, 1985, directing that Sanders be reimbursed for the period of his improper removal, i.e., December 31, 1982 through October 21, 1983. In addition, the Commission, in a separate adjudication issued September 27, 1984, determined that the second removal of Sanders, which Sanders had in the meantime also appealed to the Commission, was proper. Both determinations were appealed to this Court and have been consolidated for our consideration.

In the first appeal, DPW asserts that the Commission erred in its adjudication and order of August 28, 1985 and contends that the original letter was properly signed. Hence, it maintains it is not liable for the backpay accruing during the period from December 31, 1982 through October 21, 1983. In the second appeal, Sanders contends that the Commission's adjudication sustaining his second removal was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to law.

We first consider the question of signatory authority. The Commission found that Sanders was employed by the Somerset Mental Retardation Unit (Unit), which Unit was located on the grounds of Somerset State Hospital (Hospital). The Unit and Hospital share certain administrative services, but the Unit is programmatically separate from the Hospital. The Unit's executive officer is the Mental Retardation Unit Director, one Barry Benford. Benford reports to the Regional Commissioner for Mental Retardation, which is under the Office of Mental Retardation. The Hospital is under the aegis of the Office of Mental Health. Both, of course, ...


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