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RONALD F. STARTZEL v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (08/11/89)

decided : August 11, 1989.

RONALD F. STARTZEL, PETITIONER,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, RESPONDENT



PETITION FOR REVIEW.

COUNSEL

Lynne L. Wilson, Harrisburg, William J. Maikovich, New Brighton, for petitioner.

Eleanor L. Bush, Asst. Counsel, Jay P. Heubert, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, for respondent.

Doyle and Smith, JJ., and Kalish, Senior Judge.

Author: Smith

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 112]

Ronald F. Startzel (Petitioner) appeals from the August 15, 1988 order of the Department of Education (Department) revoking Petitioner's permanent teaching certificate on the basis of his guilty plea for mail fraud. The Department's order is affirmed.

Petitioner holds a permanent teaching certificate in mathematics and physical science, as well as a Master's equivalency certificate. He taught these subjects at the Mount Carmel School District (District) for twenty-three years. On December 3, 1985, Petitioner was indicted by a federal grand jury for mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (1984). On December 4, 1985, Petitioner entered a guilty plea to one count of mail fraud before U.S. District Court Judge William Caldwell in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Petitioner received a suspended sentence, six months probation and was ordered to pay a $500 fine. Findings of Fact, Nos. 3-4, 6. The criminal charges were based on Petitioner's conduct as a Mount Carmel Township supervisor. Petitioner and two other supervisors had discussed a scheme whereby they would solicit personal contributions in order to allow private garbage haulers to use a landfill

[ 128 Pa. Commw. Page 113]

    under the supervisors' control; however, no money ever exchanged hands. Findings of Fact, No. 5.

On November 25, 1986, the Secretary of Education (Secretary) issued an order to show cause as to why Petitioner's certificate should not be revoked. Hearings were held and the hearing examiner recommended that the Secretary find that Petitioner had committed a crime involving moral turpitude, in violation of 24 P.S. § 1225(j)*fn1 and that the Secretary decertify Petitioner. The Secretary adopted the recommendation of the hearing examiner and accordingly revoked Petitioner's certification.*fn2

Questions presented for review are whether the Secretary erred as a matter of law in concluding that Petitioner committed a crime of moral turpitude rendering him unfit to teach; whether the Secretary erred in revoking Petitioner's certificate by concluding that 24 P.S. § 1225(j) prevented the Secretary from considering the evidence presented by Petitioner establishing his fitness to continue teaching; and whether the Secretary applied the statute in a manner that violates Petitioner's rights under Article I, § 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

At issue in the instant case is 24 P.S. § 1225 which provides in pertinent part:

Powers and duties of Department of Public Instruction The Department of Public Instruction shall have the ...


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