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SHIRLEY BATSON v. MONTGOMERY COUNTY (04/19/89)

decided: April 19, 1989.

SHIRLEY BATSON, APPELLANT
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County in the case of Shirley Batson v. Montgomery County, No. 85-13085.

COUNSEL

Charles J. King, Jr., for appellant.

Denise D. Hennelly, for appellee.

Judges Craig, Barry and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Barry.

Author: Barry

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 252]

Shirley Batson (appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County which granted a motion for summary judgment filed by Montgomery County (County) in a mandamus action and denied appellant's motion for summary judgment.

Appellant was an employee of the County in the Office of the Clerk of Courts. By a letter dated January 17, 1985, she was informed that she was being discharged because of continued unexcused absenteeism. Appellant, by a letter dated July 26, 1985, demanded a hearing. When the County did not respond to this demand, appellant instituted a mandamus action, in which she alleged that the County had unlawfully terminated her employment by failing to provide her with notice of a hearing and an opportunity to be heard. She sought reinstatement with back pay and employee's benefits until such time as she was lawfully discharged. Following discovery both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The trial judge granted the County's motion for summary judgment and denied the appellant's motion. This appeal followed.

The sole issue for our consideration is whether appellant had a property right in her employment with the County so that her dismissal would constitute an "adjudication"

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 253]

    which, under the Local Agency Law (Law),*fn1 could have been valid only if she had been afforded reasonable notice of a hearing and an opportunity to be heard.

This Court has held that a property right exists in public employment only where the employee has an enforceable expectation of continued employment which can exist "only if the employee, by statute or contract, has been granted some form of guarantee." Amesbury v. Luzerne County Institution District, 27 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 418, 421, 366 A.2d 631, 633 (1976) (emphasis added). In this case appellant did not allege that, by contract, she was guaranteed either that she would be employed for a definite term that had not expired at the time of discharge or that she would not be discharged in the absence of objective "just cause."*fn2 Furthermore, she did not offer any affidavits, deposition testimony, answers

[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 254]

    to interrogatories or responses to requests for admission establishing that fact. Appellant did not allege or offer proof that she was a member of a union or a civil service employee, so that she could point to a statute which would have guaranteed her continued employment. See Pivarnik v. Department of Transportation, 82 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 42, 474 A.2d 732 (1984). Consequently, it must be concluded that the appellant was an at-will ...


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