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decided: March 22, 1988.


Appeal from the order of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania entered August 8, 1986 at No. 1306 C.D. 1985, affirming in part and reversing in part the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division John Q. Stranahan, J., specially presiding, dated April 19, 1985, at No. S.A. 642 of 1980. Pa. Commw. , Nix, C.j., and Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Zappala and Papadakos, JJ. Hutchinson, Former Justice, and Stout, Justice, did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. McDermott, Justice, notes a dissent.

Author: Larsen

[ 517 Pa. Page 507]


Section 805 of the Public Employe Relations Act, or Act 195, provides as follows:

[ 517 Pa. Page 508]

Notwithstanding any other provisions of this act where representatives of units of guards at prisons or mental hospitals or units of employes directly involved with and necessary to the functioning of the courts of this Commonwealth have reached an impasse in collective bargaining and mediation as required in section 801 of this article has not resolved the dispute, the impasse shall be submitted to a panel of arbitrators whose decision shall be Page 508} final and binding upon both parties with the proviso that the decisions of the arbitrators which would require legislative enactment to be effective shall be considered advisory only.

Act of July 23, 1970, P.L. 563, No. 195, art. VIII, § 805, 43 P.S. § 1101.805 (Supp. 1987) (emphasis added).

In this case, we are called upon to delineate the meaning of "legislative enactment" so as to differentiate those arbitration awards that are binding upon public employers and employees under section 805 from those that are advisory only. Specifically, we must determine whether an arbitration award increasing the salaries and awarding a one-time bonus to the court employees represented by appellee herein required "legislative enactment to be effective . . . ."

The Commissioners of the County of Allegheny, the appellant, engaged in collective bargaining negotiations in 1979 with appellee, the Allegheny Court Association of Professional Employees (ACAPE), which represented the professional employees of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The parties reached an impasse in their negotiations and, pursuant to section 805 of Act 195, the matter was referred to an arbitration panel. On May 29, 1980, the arbitration panel rendered its decision which set forth a collective bargaining agreement effective May 1, 1980 through June 30, 1981 which, inter alia, increased the salary scale for the term of the agreement for all employees in the bargaining unit, and awarded a one-time cash bonus of $1,200.00 to each employee in the unit.

In June, 1980, the County filed a Petition for Review of an Arbitration Award and Order in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The Honorable John Q. Stranahan of the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County was appointed by our Court Administrator to preside over this petition for review, and a conference was scheduled for October 10, 1980. On October 9, 1980, the Board of County Commissioners, upon the advice of the County Law Department, unanimously passed a resolution declaring that the challenged arbitration award "would require legislative enactment

[ 517 Pa. Page 509]

    to be effective and shall be considered advisory only. Therefore, said Arbitration Award being the same is hereby rejected."

Following hearing and arguments, Judge Stranahan issued an opinion and order on March 19, 1981 voiding certain non-fiscal provisions of the arbitration award as infringing upon the exclusive authority of the judiciary, affirming other non-fiscal provisions, and ordering a hearing on the issue of whether the bonus and salary increase would require legislative enactment to be effective, reserving the right to make further order upon determination of that issue. Both the County and ACAPE appealed the court's decision ordering an evidentiary hearing on the issue of "legislative enactment," and the Commonwealth Court affirmed. County of Allegheny v. Allegheny County Court Association of Professional Employees, 67 Pa. Commw. 277, 446 A.2d 1370 (1982), allocatur denied October 18, 1982.

An evidentiary hearing was conducted before Judge Stranahan on September 17, 1984, at which the County and ACAPE were represented and presented evidence in the form of testimony and exhibits. This evidence discloses the following.

Preparation and adoption of the County's annual budget proceeds in accordance with the applicable provisions of the Second Class County Code, Act of July 28, 1953, P.L. 723, art. XIX, §§ 1980-1982, 16 P.S. §§ 4980-82. The budget office reviews budget information and requests from the various county departments and agencies, and makes recommendations to the Commissioners. The Commissioners accept, reject or modify the budget office's recommendations, and promulgate and adopt an official annual budget. 16 P.S. § 4980(a). In 1980, that budget did not include a salary increase for court employees represented by ACAPE. At the same time the budget is adopted, the Commissioners "fix such rate of taxation upon the valuation of the property taxable for county purposes as will raise sufficient sum to meet the said expenditures." 16 P.S. § 4980(b).

[ 517 Pa. Page 510]

Throughout a given budget year, funds may be transferred from one county account to another by approval of a majority of the Commissioners. See 16 P.S. §§ 4973 and 4981(c)-(e). As the senior budget analyst for the County testified, and as documents verify, transferrence of monies from one account to another was a "normal procedure . . . not a unique happening." Notes of Testimony, September 17, 1984 at 17, 16. The budget office would review requests for transfer of already appropriated funds from one account to another and make recommendations to the Commissioners, who would reach a consensus on the request. In 1980, there were hundreds of such transfers of funds made routinely by approval of the Commissioners upon request by the budget office. The funds for such transfers would come from "another place in the budget wherever we [the budget office] feel there may be sufficient excess appropriation; somebody has decided not to purchase a vehicle or has decided not to award the contract they were planning or awarding." Id. at 17.

In fact, during the 1980 fiscal year, funds in excess of one million dollars were actually transferred from one account to the court employee salary account through such informal transfer procedures, although this transfer and salary increase was a unilateral one which was not related to the arbitration award (which totaled about $454,000 in raises and one-time bonus).

The evidence further disclosed that the Commissioners' declaration, by resolution of October 9, 1980, that the arbitration award "would require legislative enactment to be effective" was a pro forma proclamation made solely on the advice of the Law Department without discussion of the merits or fiscal impact of the award.

Based on the foregoing, the court of common pleas, by opinion and order of December 19, 1984, found that the County had not met its burden of proving that implementation of the salary increase and bonus provisions of the arbitration award required "legislative enactment" as contemplated by the legislature in section 805 of Act 195.

[ 517 Pa. Page 511]

Accordingly, that court held that the salary increase and bonus provisions of the arbitration award were binding and ordered the County to implement said provisions.

Following denial of post-trial motions, the County appealed to Commonwealth Court and, on August 8, 1986, a unanimous panel of that court (per MacPhail, J.) affirmed that portion of the lower court's opinion affirming the salary increase and bonus provisions of the arbitration award and ordering the County to implement those provisions.*fn1 This Court granted the County's ...

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