Appeal from the Order of the State Ethics Commission, in the case of James Koslow, No. 458-R.
Michael J. Witherel, Brucker & Witherel, for petitioner.
Vincent J. Dopko, with him, John J. Contino, Acting General Counsel, for respondent.
Judges Craig and Smith, and Senior Judge Narick, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 20]
James Koslow, an elected commissioner of Robinson Township, appeals an order of the State Ethics Commission. We must determine whether the commission correctly concluded that Koslow used his office as a township commissioner in violation of section 403(a) of the State Ethics Act,*fn1 that is, "to obtain financial gain other than compensation provided by law."
Specifically, the commission found that Koslow violated section 403(a) by participating in a vote by the board of commissioners to appoint himself as a member of the Robinson Township Municipal Authority. The board voted 3 to 2 to appoint Koslow; by voting for himself, Koslow cast the deciding ballot. From January 1984 through September 1985, Koslow, purportedly as a member of the municipal authority, received $70 a
[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 21]
month, the amount stated by local ordinance for member compensation as authorized under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Authorities Act of 1945.*fn2 The commission concluded that this monthly $70 payment constituted financial gain "other than compensation provided by law" for township commissioners, and ordered Koslow to submit to the commission a check in the amount of $1,470 payable to the Robinson Township Municipal Authority. Koslow now appeals that order.
Koslow does not dispute the commission's factual findings, but does argue that the commission, in its interpretation of section 403(a), erred as a matter of law.*fn3 Koslow contends that the $70 monthly payment did not constitute compensation for serving as a township commissioner, but rather compensated him for serving as a board member of the separate township municipal authority. Because the Municipalities Authorities Act and local ordinance authorized compensation for municipal authority members, Koslow asserts the monthly payment constituted "financial gain" that was "provided by law."
In one respect, Koslow's analysis is legally correct. Both local ordinance and enabling legislation authorize compensation to be paid to municipal authority members. Nothing in our statutory framework forbids a township commissioner from also serving on the township municipal authority, and the commission itself does not contend that the two offices are incompatible.
[ 116 Pa. Commw. Page 22]
However, the pivotal issue in this case is whether Koslow even was qualified as an authority member to receive the "compensation provided by law" ...