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08/20/97 RONALD DENBOW v. BOROUGH LEETSDALE

August 20, 1997

RONALD DENBOW, VERNON S. KRAYNIEWSKI AND ANDREW PSZENNY, POLICE WAGE AND POLICY COMMITTEE, APPELLANTS
v.
BOROUGH OF LEETSDALE



Appealed From No. G.D. 94-1993. Common Pleas Court of the County of Allegheny. Judge McGOWAN.

Before: Honorable Joseph T. Doyle, Judge, Honorable Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, Judge, Honorable Jess S. Jiuliante, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Judge Doyle Judge Leadbetter concurs in the result only.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle

OPINION BY JUDGE DOYLE

FILED: August 20, 1997

Police Officers Ronald Denbow, Vernon Krayniewski and Andrew Pszenny, and the Police Wage and Policy Committee (collectively, the Police) appeal from an order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County that dismissed their motion for judgment n.o.v. For the following reasons, we affirm.

The record reveals the following undisputed facts. On December 30, 1991, the Borough of Leetsdale (Borough) and the Police Wage and Policy Committee entered into a three-year collective bargaining agreement (the CBA) which provided for the terms and conditions of employment for the Borough police officers for the years 1992, 1993 and 1994. The CBA had established the wage scale for the three years of the contract, but, on November 3, 1993, the day following the municipal elections, at which two incumbent councilmen were defeated for reelection, the Borough Council voted to "amend" the CBA by giving three police officers a substantial pay increase during 1994, the last year of the contract. On December 21, 1993, Council voted a pay increase for a fourth officer who was inadvertently omitted from the November 3, 1993 resolution.

The vote of Borough Council to grant the wage increases was 5 to 2 at both meetings, with the two defeated councilmen voting with the majority. Both resolutions of Council were unilateral actions taken by the outgoing Borough Council. After the newly elected councilmen were installed in January of 1994, the newly reorganized council met on January 20, 1994, and repudiated both resolutions of the previous council.

When the Borough refused to pay the salary increases, the Police filed an assumpsit action in the Court of Common Pleas and attached as exhibits to the Complaint two contracts dated November 15, 1993, and December 12, 1993, which purport to be the "addenda" to the three-year CBA providing for the salary increases. *fn1 On March 29, 1996, Common Pleas entered a verdict in favor of the Borough, concluding that the addenda were unconstitutional pursuant to Article 3, Section 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which, in pertinent part, states the following:

§ 26. Extra compensation prohibited; claims against the Commonwealth; pensions

No bill shall be passed giving any extra compensation to any public officer, servant, employee, agent or contractor, after services shall have been rendered or contract made. . . . Provided, however, That nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the General Assembly from authorizing the increase of a retirement or pension system now in effect or hereafter legally constituted by the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities, after the termination of the services of said member. (Emphasis added.) *fn2

Common Pleas concluded that the addenda provided "extra compensation" because the CBA between the Borough and the Police had already been agreed upon and executed and that the addenda were therefore unconstitutional pursuant to Article 3, Section 26.

On appeal, *fn3 the Police contend that Article 3, Section 26 applies only to actions of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and does not apply to the actions of local municipalities, and therefore, Common Pleas erred in concluding that the addenda were unconstitutional. Additionally, the Police argue that, even if Article 3 does apply to the actions of local municipalities, Act 111 *fn4 gives local municipalities the "authority under [Article 3,] Section 26 to grant extra compensation to police officers prior to the termination date of their employment contracts." (Appellants' Brief at 7.)

The Police rely exclusively on McKinley v. School District of Luzerne Township, 383 Pa. 289, 118 A.2d 137 (1955), in arguing that Article 3, Section 26 does not apply to municipal actions. In McKinley, a school district increased the compensation of an elected tax collector after that tax collector's election. A group of taxpayers filed a complaint in equity requesting that the trial court nullify the action of the school district. The trial court entered a decree that declared the school district's action null and void because it was so excessive that it constituted a "clear abuse of discretion, . . . [and was] an arbitrary and capricious action . . . resulting in an unlawful expenditure of public funds." Id. at 293, 118 A.2d at 140. *fn5 On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the decree of the Court of Common ...


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