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APPEAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION BY LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP BOARD SUPERVISORS AGAINST RONALD C. SMITH (07/11/88)

decided: July 11, 1988.

IN RE: APPEAL OF DISCIPLINARY ACTION BY LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AGAINST RONALD C. SMITH, LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT. LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP, APPELLANT


Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County, in the case of In Re: Appeal of Disciplinary Action by Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors against Ronald C. Smith, Lawrence Township Police Department, No. 87-5-EQU.

COUNSEL

J. Richard Mattern, II, for appellant.

R. Denning Gearhart, Gearhart & Ireland, for appellee, Ronald C. Smith.

Judges Doyle, Barry and McGinley, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.

Author: Doyle

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 509]

The Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors (Township) appeals two orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County. The Township challenges the trial court's interlocutory order of June 1, 1987, granting a de novo hearing in the instant controversy, and the court's final order of July 14, 1987 vacating the decision of the Township suspending Corporal Ronald C. Smith for two weeks without pay from the Lawrence Township police force and permanently demoting him to patrolman for conduct unbecoming a police officer. We affirm both orders.

On February 26, 1987, the Township held a public hearing to adjudicate disciplinary charges filed against Corporal Smith. As a result of the hearing, the Township suspended Corporal Smith without pay for two

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 510]

    weeks and demoted him to the rank of "patrolman." In response, Corporal Smith filed a petition for dismissal of complaint and reinstatement with the trial court requesting a de novo hearing on the disciplinary charges. The trial court granted the petition by order dated March 6, 1987.

Thereafter, on April 14, 1987, the Township filed a rule to show cause why the order of March 6, 1987 should not be stricken. The trial court heard oral argument on the rule on May 19, 1987. At the hearing, the trial court requested that a copy of the record below be submitted for its consideration, and a copy was subsequently submitted. Upon its review of the record, the trial court filed an order on June 1, 1987 calling for a de novo hearing to be held on June 4, 1987.

However, the trial court continued the de novo hearing until July 10, 1987 upon the Township's request for an extension of time. Prior to the de novo hearing, counsel for both parties entered into a stipulation concerning how certain evidence would be presented at the hearing. Counsel for Corporal Smith, R. Derring Gearhart, confirmed the agreement in writing by letter to J. Richard Mattern, counsel for the Township, dated July 9, 1987. Moreover, Mr. Mattern reiterated the terms of the stipulation on the record at the July 10, 1987 hearing. As Mr. Mattern stated:

Your Honor pursuant to your order of June 1, 1987, ordering a hearing de novo in this matter, counsel Gearhart and myself in an effort to keep the matter short . . . entered into a stipulation whereby we would offer the transcript of the witnesses and testimony along and together with the complaint, and various exhibits, on condition that the Lawrence Township make available today for cross examination Mrs. Don Beck, Chief Donald Cutler and Michael Beck.

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 511]

(R.R. at 164a) Mr. Mattern, after explaining the terms of the stipulation, then stated:

Chief Cutler is here, Mrs. Beck is here, but prior to this hearing, she indicated she refused to bring her son, Michael Beck, to Court today and therefore, we ...


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