Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Jefferson County, Honorable Edwin L. Snyder, Pres. Judge.
Robert M. Hanak, Esq., for appellant.
John M. Elliott, Esq., Stephen C. Braverman, Esq., Dusty L. Elias, Esq., for appellants.
John C. Dennison, Esq., Solicitor for Jefferson County, S. Paul Mazza, Esq., MAZZA, HEIM & DONOVAN, Richard B. Wickersham, Esq., for appellee.
Honorable John A. MacPHAIL, Judge, Honorable James Gardner Colins, Judge, Honorable Jacob Kalish, Senior Judge.
OPINION BY JUDGE MacPHAIL
James Doverspike and Amor D. Bullers (Appellants) appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County which sustained the preliminary objections filed by the Commissioners of Jefferson County (Commissioners), David S. Barr, t/d/b/a 21st Century Appraisals, Inc. and Pritchard and Abbott Appraisals, Inc. (jointly, 21st Century) and dismissed Appellants, complaint in equity and mandamus. Appellants sought in their action to challenge the validity of a contract executed by the Commissioners and 21st Century providing for appraisals of active mineral lands located in Jefferson County to be conducted by 21st Century. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the common pleas court's dismissal of Appellants, complaint.
Appellants, complaint, which is comprised of five counts, challenges the subject contract on the following grounds: (1) that the contract was awarded without pursuing public bidding procedures and that the services offered by 21st Century do not constitute professional services which would be exempt from public bidding requirements; (2) that the appraisers employed by 21st Century are not licensed real estate brokers; (3) that if 21st Century is viewed as a delegated or assistant assessor, its compensation has not been properly subjected to approval by the Jefferson County Salary Board; and, (4) that the contract was entered into in violation of the Open Meeting Law.*fn1 Demurrers were filed and sustained regarding each of the counts contained in the complaint.
Our scope of review from the action of a trial court in sustaining preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer is limited. Of course, preliminary objections admit as true all well-pleaded facts set forth in the complaint and all inferences fairly deducible therefrom. Where no factual disputes exist, it is appropriate for the trial court to interpret the applicable law and resolve the merits of the claim. Calandra v. State College Area School District, 99 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 223, 512 A.2d 809 (1986). Our review is limited to a determination of whether it appears with certainty that the law will permit no relief given the truth of the facts as pled. Bryson v. Solomon, 97 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 530, 510 A.2d 377 (1986).
We turn first to the issue of whether or not the appraisal contract should have been publicly bid. Section 1802 of The County Code,*fn2 16 P.S. § 1802 provides, inter alia, as follows:
(a) All contracts for services and personal property where the amount thereof exceeds the sum of four thousand dollars ($4,000), shall be written and shall, except as otherwise hereinafter specified, be made by advertising for bids.
(h) The contracts or purchases made by the commissioners involving an expenditure of over four thousand dollars ($4,000) which shall not require advertising or bidding, as hereinbefore provided, are as follows:
(5) Those involving services of members of the medical or legal profession, registered architects, engineers, certified public accountants or other personal services involving professional expert advice.
(Emphasis added.) The total two year contract price in the instant case is $130,000 and, thus, exceeds the minimum $4,000 expenditure required to trigger public bidding procedures.
Moreover, the Commissioners concede that the contract was ...