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Commonwealth v. Pennsylvania State Troopers Association

July 28, 2009; as amended September 18, 2009

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPERS ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Senior Judge Friedman

Argued: June 11, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Commonwealth) petitions for review of a December 24, 2008, interest arbitration award, which required that the Commonwealth: (1) pay troopers on "union leave" the amount established by the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (Association); and (2) award all members retiring with fifteen years of service an honorable discharge, their badge and their retirement identification, except upon a showing of just cause. We vacate the "union leave" provision but affirm the "honorable discharge" provision.

After the parties reached an impasse in their collective bargaining negotiations, they requested the appointment of a board of arbitration pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act known as the Policemen and Firemen Collective Bargaining Act (Act 111), Act of June 24, 1968, P.L. 237, 43 P.S. §217.4(a).

The Association notified the Secretary of the Commonwealth of the issues in dispute, including "union leave" rules and whether a member retiring with fifteen years of service should be granted an honorable discharge, except upon a showing of just cause. (R.R. at 27a, 29a.) The Commonwealth objected that the honorable discharge issue is not a term or condition of employment. (R.R. at 38a-39a.) The Commonwealth also sought clarification of the "union leave" issue, (R.R. at 32a-33a), and, in reply, the Association set forth the following proposal:

Any [Association] elected officer released from duty pursuant to law shall receive compensation at the rate of Major, with respect to the President of the [Association], and at the rate of Captain with respect to any other elected officers of the [Association].

(R.R. at 35a-37a.)

After a hearing, the arbitration board issued an award that included the following provisions:

Upon written request by [the Association], Union officers shall be released from duty. Union officers released from duty pursuant to State law shall be paid by the Commonwealth at the amount designated by the [Association] Board of Directors, not to exceed the rate of the highest ranking member of the bargaining unit with appropriate longevity. Any amount paid by the Commonwealth, including the cost of all benefits, shall be reimbursed by the [Association] to the Commonwealth in accordance with law.

(R.R. at 9a-10a.)

All members with at least fifteen years of Pennsylvania State Police service shall be awarded an Honorable Discharge and their badge and retirement ID except upon a showing of just cause. (R.R. at 10a.) The Commonwealth petitions for review of these provisions of the award.

Initially, we note that, although section 7(a) of Act 111 states, "No appeal [from the determination of a board of arbitration] shall be allowed to any court," 43 P.S. §217.7(a), this provision of law does not mean that no review of an interest arbitration award is available. Town of McCandless v. McCandless Police Officers Association, 587 Pa. 525, 901 A.2d 991 (2006). An appellate court has limited jurisdiction in the form of narrow certiorari to review an interest arbitration award. City of Scranton v. E.B. Jermyn Lodge No. 2 of the Fraternal Order of Police, 965 A.2d 359 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009). Our review is limited to questions concerning:

(1) the arbitrators' jurisdiction; (2) the regularity of the proceedings; (3) an excess of the arbitrators' powers; and (4) a deprivation of constitutional rights. Id. If arbitrators mandate that a party carry out an ...


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