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PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION v. STUART ROSS (02/08/89)

decided: February 8, 1989.

PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, APPELLANT,
v.
STUART ROSS, APPELLEE



Appealed From No. 2161 April Term, 1987; Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia County.

COUNSEL

John P. Straub, Deputy City Sol., for appellant.

F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellee.

Craig and Barry, JJ., and Narick, Senior Judge.

Author: Narick

The Civil Service Commission of the City of Philadelphia (Commission) appeals from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County which vacated the Commission's order dismissing Stuart Ross (Appellee) from the City of Philadelphia Police Department Southwest Division (Department) and directed Appellee's reinstatement with full back pay and emoluments. We reverse.

The record of the proceedings before the Commission reveals the following. On August 25, 1982 Appellee, who was a member of the Department's vice section, arrested Tyrone Rowland (Rowland) at the corner of 56th Street and Chester Avenue in Philadelphia for participating in an illegal lottery operation.*fn1 This arrest is the basis for Appellee's dismissal from the Department.*fn2 The day following his arrest, Rowland telephoned the Department's Internal Affairs Bureau stating that he was paid to take a fall guy arrest by his boss, Vincent Garrett, and that he had not written any numbers.*fn3

On December 12, 1982, Appellee was discharged by the Department for conducting a false arrest. The causes assigned by the Department for Appellee's dismissal were: (1) accepting bribes or gratuities for permitting illegal acts; (2) knowingly and willfully making a false entry in a departmental record or report; (3) failing to take appropriate action concerning illegal activity, including vice conditions and/or in failing to make a written report of same to commanding officer; and (4) committing repeated violations of departmental rules and regulations and other conduct indicating that he had little or no regard for his responsibility as a member of the Department.*fn4

After conducting four days of hearings, the Commission upheld Appellee's dismissal.*fn5 Ross appealed the Commission's action and the court of common pleas reversed the Commission opining that there was "not even a scintilla of evidence" which would connect Appellee to any illegal or improper activities, that neither Rowland nor Garrett implicated Ross in any way to any illegal activity and that no evidence had been presented to show Appellee received any money from Garrett or anyone else connected with Rowland's arrest.

A public employer such as the Department herein need not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an employee committed a crime but need only present evidence that the suspension or removal was for just cause. Leroi v. Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, 34 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 190, 382 A.2d 1260 (1978). Primary responsibility as to

[ 141 Pa. Commw. Page 5]

    the methods necessary to uphold police morale and efficiency and for maintaining public confidence in the police department rests with municipal officials. See Baker Case, 409 Pa. 143, 185 A.2d 521 (1962); Mondevergine. Of course, police officers are held to a higher standard of conduct than ordinary citizens and are expected to conduct themselves lawfully and properly. Mondevergine; Faust v. Police Civil Service Commission of the Borough of State College, 22 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 123, 347 A.2d 765 (1975); Cerceo v. Borough of Darby, 3 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 174, 281 A.2d 251 (1971).

Our appellate review of an adjudication of a municipal civil service commission is limited to determining whether constitutional rights have been violated, an error of law committed or whether the necessary findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. 2 Pa.C.S. ยง 754(b); Lewis v. Philadelphia Civil Service Commission, 518 Pa. 170, 542 A.2d 519 (1988). Because the Department was the prevailing party before the Commission, we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Department, giving it the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Id.

The first issue we must consider on appeal is whether the Commission's decision to uphold Appellee's dismissal is supported by substantial evidence. In determining whether an administrative decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be asked whether from an examination of the entire record and the inferences therefrom a reasonable man might have reached the same decision. Leroi. Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla of ...


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