Appeal from COMMON PLEAS Court, Berks County; Honorable Thomas J. Eshelman, Judge.
Jack A. Linton, City Sol., Peter F. Cianci, First Asst. City Sol., Reading, for appellant/appellee, Police Pension Fund Ass'n Bd., an Agency of the City of Reading, Pa.
Anthony C. Busillo, II, Harrisburg, for appellee/appellant, Thomas P. Hess.
Crumlish, Jr., President Judge, McGinley, J., and Narick, Senior Judge.
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 501]
The Police Pension Fund Association Board (Fund) and Police Officer Thomas P. Hess (Hess) cross-filed for summary judgment in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County (common pleas court). The common pleas court determined that the City of Reading (City) was estopped from denying pension benefits to Hess because he relied on the City's prior representation that he would be eligible for benefits after twenty years service. The common pleas court entered judgment and the Fund and Hess have appealed.
The Fund and Hess entered into a stipulation of facts. Hess was twenty-three (23) years of age at the time he commenced employment with the City on January 23, 1963. When Hess began his employment police officers were eligible to receive pension benefits upon completion of twenty (20) years of service with no minimum age requirement. Hess was expressly informed by representatives of the City that he would be eligible for pension benefits after completion of twenty (20) years of service as a police officer regardless of age. In 1977 the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Lodge # 9 and the City met to collectively bargain employment terms and conditions including pensions pursuant to Section 1 of the Act of June 24, 1968, (Act III), P.L. 237.*fn1 When the parties arrived at an impasse*fn2 they proceeded
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 502]
to binding arbitration. After hearing the Arbitrators issued an award which specified that all police officers presently on the force with twenty (20) years or more of service as of 1978 could retire with full pension benefits regardless of age. Those officers who did not meet this requirement would be eligible for full pension benefits after completing twenty (20) years of service and the attainment of fifty (50) years of age. The Fund and Hess agree that the award effectively enhanced the actuarial soundness of the fund.
Pursuant to the Arbitrators' award the City enacted an Ordinance*fn3 which required a minimum age of fifty (50) and twenty (20) years of service as conditions to the receipt of full pension benefits.*fn4 When the Ordinance was enacted
[ 127 Pa. Commw. Page 503]
Hess had approximately sixteen (16) years of service. On September 10, 1985, at the age of forty-six (46) and with twenty-two (22) years of service, Hess applied for full pension benefits. Pursuant to the Ordinance his request was denied.
Our scope of review of the grant of a motion for summary judgment is limited to determining whether there has been an error of law or a manifest abuse of discretion. Miller v. Emelson, 103 Pa. Commw. 437, 520 A.2d 913 (1987). Summary judgment is properly granted where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party has clearly established ...