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Ricci v. Matthews

August 17, 2010

HON. ALFRED RICCI
v.
HON. JAMES R. MATTHEWS, HON. BRUCE L. CASTOR, JR., HON. JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY
HON. RISA VETRI FERMAN
v.
HON. JAMES R. MATTHEWS, HON. BRUCE L. CASTOR, JR., HON. JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, AND COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY
APPEAL OF: COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, HON. JAMES R. MATTHEWS, HON. BRUCE L. CASTOR, JR. AND HON. JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: President Judge Leadbetter

Argued: May 19, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Montgomery County (County) and its commissioners, James R. Matthews, Bruce L. Castor, Jr. and Joseph M. Hoeffel (collectively, Commissioners) appeal from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County granting the motions for judgment on the pleadings of the Sheriff of Montgomery County, John P. Durante (Sheriff),*fn1 and the District Attorney of Montgomery County, Risa Vetri Ferman (DA). In its order, common pleas declared Montgomery County Ordinance No. 09-1 (Ordinance) invalid as applied to the Sheriff and the DA (together, Row Officers) and their employees (collectively, Row Employees), and enjoined the Commissioners from enforcing it against them. Common pleas held that the Commissioners lacked the authority to enact the entire Ordinance, Section 1 of which restricted the political activities of employees of the County, including Row Employees. We affirm as to Section 1 of the Ordinance and vacate and remand as to all other sections.

Montgomery County is a Second Class A County, governed by the Second Class County Code (Code).*fn2 In 2009, the Commissioners adopted the Ordinance, Section 1 of which, titled "Prohibition on Certain Political Activities," states:

A. All County employees holding the following positions or such other positions which may be heretofore created holding the same or substantially similar responsibilities shall be barred from engaging in, and from soliciting any other person to engage in, any political fundraising and from seeking candidacy for any public office (with the exception of School Board), and from engaging in the management of any political campaign for public office at any time during the course of holding such position.

However, these employees shall retain the right to vote as he or she chooses in any election, to privately and publicly express his/her opinion on political subjects and candidates, to make monetary contributions to any political party, group or candidate, and to otherwise freely associate with persons of any political party or group:

District Attorney

First Assistant DA Executive Assistant DA (Deputy District Attorney) Chief Pre-Trials Division ARD Unit Leader Forfeiture Unit Supervisor Chief of Detectives Assistant District Attorney

Sheriff Chief Deputy

No County employee may be given a leave of absence to engage in activities banned by this Section.

B. This prohibition shall not apply to employees seeking public offices to be elected in the year 2009.

C. This prohibition shall not apply to county elected officials.

D. Any employee holding elective office other than county elective office as of the date on which this ordinance is adopted may continue to serve in any public office that employee presently holds, but may not seek ...


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