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RAYMOND CURTIS v. JOHN M. CLELAND (12/27/88)

decided: December 27, 1988.

RAYMOND CURTIS, PATRICK COSTELLO, SHERWOOD ANDERSON, MCKEAN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, PETITIONERS
v.
JOHN M. CLELAND, MCKEAN COUNTY PRESIDENT JUDGE, CONNIE EATON, MCKEAN COUNTY TREASURER, AND JOYCE CARR, MCKEAN COUNTY CONTROLLER, RESPONDENTS



Original Jurisdiction in the case of Raymond Curtis, Patrick Costello, Sherwood Anderson, McKean County Commissioners v. John M. Cleland, McKean County President Judge, Connie Eaton, McKean County Treasurer, and Joyce Carr, McKean County Controller.

COUNSEL

Stanley E. Pecora, Jr., Pecora, Duke & Babcox, for petitioners.

Howard M. Holmes, with him, Charles W. Johns, for respondent, Honorable John M. Cleland.

Deborah Wilson Babcock, with her, Christian T. Mattie, III, Mutzabaugh, Mutzabaugh, Sanders and Mattie, for respondents Eaton and Carr.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino and Smith. Opinion by Judge Doyle. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Doyle

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 329]

Before us in our original jurisdiction are preliminary objections to a petition for declaratory judgment.*fn1

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 330]

The petitioners are the three County Commissioners in McKean County at the time of the events in question. We are advised that only one of them is currently a Commissioner. Respondent John Cleland is the President Judge of McKean County. Respondent Connie Eaton is County Treasurer and Respondent Joyce Carr is County Controller and a member of the Salary Board.

This action had its genesis in a decision of President Judge Cleland to provide employees of the Court's Domestic Relations Division with a one-time salary bonus using funds designated "IV-D" funds which are provided by the Department of Public Welfare to the County Domestic Relations Division. The County Commissioners opposed this idea. President Judge Cleland, however, entered an administrative order dated October 23, 1986 directing the County Controller to make the bonus payments. The County Commissioners, along with Respondents Eaton and Carr, are required to countersign all checks involving disbursements of County funds. The Commissioners refused to comply with the order and the court issued a rule directing the County Commissioners, the Controller and the Treasurer to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of the order. A hearing was held and on November 19, 1986 the trial court entered an order holding the Commissioners in civil contempt. The Commissioners then purged the contempt by authorizing the checks to be drawn. No appeal was taken from the contempt order.

Subsequently, Petitioners sought a declaratory judgment that the IV-D funds are under the control of the Commissioners rather than under the control of the President Judge. The Commissioners contend that the

[ 122 Pa. Commw. Page 331]

    money issued constitutes "pay" and, hence, is within the jurisdiction of the Salary Board.*fn2 The President Judge filed three preliminary objections to the declaratory judgment ...


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