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APPEAL FROM 1985 REPORT AUDITORS TOWNSHIP FAIRFIELD (11/28/89)

decided: November 28, 1989.

IN RE APPEAL FROM 1985 REPORT OF AUDITORS OF THE TOWNSHIP OF FAIRFIELD, WESTMORELAND COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA. APPEAL OF BOARD OF AUDITORS OF FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP


Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Westmoreland County; Honorable Bernard F. Scherer, Judge.

COUNSEL

John M. Campfield, Campfield & Ferraro, Greensburg, for appellant.

Anthony P. Picadio, Sherman & Picadio, Pittsburgh, with him, George V. Welty, Flickinger & Welty, Ligonier, for appellee.

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

Author: Doyle

[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 2]

Before us for consideration is the appeal of the Fairfield Township Board of Auditors (Auditors) from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County which denied the Auditors' petition for counsel fees and costs associated with a surcharge filed by them against the Fairfield Township Supervisors (Supervisors). We affirm in part and vacate in part, and remand to the common pleas court for a determination of whether the Auditors' employment of an attorney complied with Section 550 of The Second Class Township Code (Code), Act of May 1, 1933, P.L. 103, as amended, 53 P.S. § 65550. From our review of the record, the relevant facts are as follows.

At their January, 1985 organization meeting, the Supervisors appointed a township solicitor and set his compensation rate at $45.00 per hour. During 1985, the solicitor submitted two statements which together totaled $5,294.25. Although they are not included in the record, the statements apparently consisted only of a recitation of the number of hours billed multiplied by the hourly rate without an explanation or description of the work performed. Prior to

[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 3]

    the approval of both invoices at regular public meetings, the Supervisors apparently first privately reviewed the solicitor's records from which the statement was derived.

The solicitor's statements were examined by the Auditors while in the course of their 1986 audit of the Supervisors' 1985 accounts. By letter to the Supervisors dated February 11, 1986 the Auditors requested additional information for purposes of the audit including, inter alia, "a statement from [the solicitor] giving a brief description of the subject involved, date, type of service (i.e. phone call, conference, meeting, preparation of legal document, letter writing, etc.) and cost for each legal charge in 1985." The Supervisors responded by letter dated February 21, 1986 in which they stated that "[t]he statements are strictly confidential information between the Supervisors and the Solicitor."

By way of response, the Auditors at their February 26, 1986 meeting approved a motion that they would not sign the 1985 Audit Report until they received the solicitor's statements and had the time to review them.*fn1 The Supervisors were informed of this action by letter dated March 3, 1986. The Auditors further indicated their disagreement with the Supervisor's position by letter dated March 13, 1986 in which they requested that the solicitor or another attorney of the Supervisor's choosing provide the Auditors with a legal brief on the matter. In a lengthy response dated March 26, 1986, the solicitor set forth the legal underpinnings of the Supervisors' position. In the final paragraph of that letter, he also informed the Auditors that, in an effort to resolve the matter, the Supervisors were requesting that a meeting be held at 7:00 p.m. on March 31, 1986 at the Township building. However, the March 26

[ 130 Pa. Commw. Page 4]

    letter was not delivered to the Auditors until late in the afternoon of March 31. Because of the delay in receipt of the letter, the ...


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