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ERIE CITY RETIREES ASSN. v. CITY OF ERIE

December 3, 1993

ERIE CITY RETIREES ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF ERIE, THE CITY OF ERIE POLICE OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT BOARD, HONORABLE BARBARA HAFER, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAURICE B. COHILL, JR.

 COHILL, D. J.

 Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and Request for Rule 11 Sanctions filed on behalf of the Auditor General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Honorable Barbara Hafer ("Auditor General"). The Auditor General is one of three defendants in an action initiated by the Erie City Retirees Association (the "Association"). The Association is claiming its member retirees have been deprived of their civil rights by the City of Erie's pension plan and the Auditor General's enforcement of a state statute providing for contributions of state aid to that plan. After consideration of the motion and an examination of the complaint, we will grant the motion to dismiss and deny the request for sanctions.

 Furthermore, upon review of the complaint, it is apparent that the allegations in the Association's complaint are insufficient to support its claim and we therefore dismiss without prejudice the complaint against the two remaining defendants, the City of Erie (the "City"), and the City of Erie Officers and Employees Retirement Board (the "Board"), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff is a non-profit corporation which represents retired municipal employees of Erie, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that its retirees' civil rights have been infringed by the contribution and distribution provisions of the General Municipal Pension System State Aid Program, 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 895.402 et seq. (1993) ("the Act" or "Act 205") and local ordinances pertaining to a municipal pension plan. The Association is seeking to enjoin the defendants from collecting, allocating and distributing pension and state funds to the retired employees in unequal amounts that are based on the past or present occupations of the employees.

 Presently, the City of Erie's municipal employees and retirees participate in one of three different pension plans depending on their past or present position. Separate plans are provided for police officers, firefighters and non-uniformed or "white collar" employees. These plans provide for different levels of contributions and benefits for their members.

 The Association further alleges the non-uniformed retirees have not received a cost of living increase in their benefits for at least 25 years while, in this same time period, certain police retirees have received and will continue to receive cost of living increases in their benefits. Plaintiff charges that if the state aid to the pension programs was contributed in an equal manner to the three pension plans, there would be sufficient funds to permit the Board to distribute a cost of living increase for the non-uniformed retirees.

 Plaintiff alleges the City's pension plans and the state aid program constitute a statutory scheme which subjects the non-uniformed employees and retirees to unequal treatment in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1988).

 II. DISCUSSION

 Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), this Court must dismiss a claim for relief if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claim which would entitle him or her to relief. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974). All allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom must be accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Sturm v. Clark, 835 F.2d 1009, 1011 (3d Cir. 1987). The court's inquiry is essentially limited to the content of the complaint. Biesenbach v. Guenther, 588 F.2d 400, 402 (3d Cir. 1978). Pleadings must be liberally construed. Richardson v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Health, 561 F.2d 489, 492 (3d Cir. 1977).

 It is well settled that "even if a party does not make a formal motion to dismiss, the Court may on its own initiative dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), where the inadequacy of the complaint is apparent as a matter of law. Coggins v. Carpenter, 468 F. Supp. 270, 279 (E.D. Pa. 1979) citing 5 Charles A. Wright and Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (1969).

 The Auditor General argues that her office plays no role in determining the proper allocation of state aid program monies among any municipality's pension plans and plaintiff cannot, therefore, demonstrate that it has been deprived of any constitutional or other rights by the actions of the Auditor General.

 The Auditor General cites Section 402(g) of the Act in support of her argument. Section 402(g) provides:

 
(g) Authorized expenditures of General Municipal Pension System State Aid. -- . . . If more than one pension plan is maintained by the municipality, then the governing body of the municipality shall annually determine the proportion of the total amount of the General Municipal Pension System State Aid received by the municipality which shall be credited to each pension plan . . .

 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 895.402(g) (1993).

 The Auditor General argues that the Act's language clearly provides that her office has no control over the proportion of state aid that is credited to a particular plan by the municipality's governing board.

 The Association, however, argues that Section 402(e) of the Act with its allocation formula is the real source of its unequal treatment by the three ...


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