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Spencer v. City of Reading Charter Board

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

August 8, 2014

The Honorable Vaughn D. Spencer, Mayor of the City of Reading
v.
City of Reading Charter Board, Appellant

Argued, May 13, 2014

Page 845

Appealed from No. 13-2083. Common Pleas Court of the County of Berks. Rowley, J.

Eric B. Smith, Norristown, for appellant.

Kevin J. McKeon, Harrisburg, for appellant.

Robert L. Byer, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

BEFORE: HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge.

OPINION

Page 846

LEAVITT, JUDGE

The City of Reading Charter Board (Charter Board) appeals an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County (trial court) that set aside the Charter Board's imposition of sanctions upon The Honorable Vaughn D. Spencer, Mayor of the City of Reading, for performing the duties of the City's Managing Director at a time that position was vacant. The Charter Board claims the trial court did not apply the proper standard of review; erred by substituting its own judgment for that of the Charter Board; and misconstrued an advisory opinion of the Charter Board. Mayor Spencer has filed a motion to quash, asserting the Charter Board lacks standing to appeal. We deny Mayor Spencer's motion to quash and affirm the trial court.

Background

The City of Reading is governed by a Home Rule Charter. The chief executive is the Mayor, who is vested with the " executive, administrative, and law enforcement powers of the City ... [and] shall control and be accountable for the executive branch of City government[.]" Charter For The City Of Reading, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2010) § 301 (Charter); Reproduced Record at 119a (R.R. ). The Charter also established the position of Managing Director, who serves as the City's chief administrative officer. Charter § 406; R.R. 125a. The Managing Director reports to the Mayor and " may be removed from office by the Mayor at any time, without cause." Charter § 404(a); R.R. 124a.

On January 2, 2012, Mayor Spencer took office. At that time, Carl Geffken served as Managing Director. Geffken tendered his resignation effective March 15, 2012. At a City Council meeting on March 12th, the Council inquired of the Mayor who would be performing Geffken's Managing Director duties until the position was filled. The Mayor responded that he would assume responsibility for those duties in the interim. None of the Council members objected to the Mayor's response.

Thereafter, Mayor Spencer nominated Scott Hoh to be Managing Director. On April 2, 2012, City Council rejected Hoh's appointment. From March 15th through July 4th, when the City did not have a Managing Director, Mayor Spencer performed the Managing Director's job duties. The Mayor did not seek compensation for performing the Managing Director duties; he was paid only the compensation to which he was entitled as Mayor. On May 29, 2012, City Council confirmed Carole Snyder as the new Managing Director. Her effective date of hire was July 5, 2012.

On June 18, 2012, the Charter Board received a complaint from Randy Corcoran, a City taxpayer and member of City Council, challenging the actions taken by Mayor Spencer while acting as Managing Director. The Charter Board's investigative officer, David Brennen, investigated the complaint and concluded that the Mayor had violated the Charter and the City's Administrative Code by doing the work of both positions simultaneously. The Mayor requested an evidentiary hearing, which was held before the Charter Board.

The essential facts were not in dispute. Mayor Spencer admitted that he acted as Mayor and Managing Director from March 15th through July 4, 2012. As such, he performed certain administrative tasks of a Managing Director, such as issuing directives

Page 847

relating to non-exempt employees, the purchase of professional services and the transfer of City funds. Under the Charter, the Mayor supervises the Managing Director, but the Charter does not extend this supervisory authority to the point that the Mayor can actually serve as Managing Director. Mayor Spencer asserted that doing the work of both positions simultaneously was not prohibited by the Charter or the City's Administrative Code. Further, he had to do the duties of the Managing Director position because the Charter did not authorize the appointment of a Temporary Managing Director during the time period that he acted as Managing Director. He based this conclusion on the Charter Board's Advisory Opinion No. 22, issued on November 18, 2010.

Following the hearing, the Charter Board concluded that the Charter and the Administrative Code require that the offices of Mayor and Managing Director be separate and that the Mayor " impermissibly took the power, mantel [sic] and authority of the Managing Director." Charter Board Final Opinion and Order at 27; R.R. 590a. Specifically, the Charter Board concluded that Mayor Spencer violated Section 308(a), (f), (g), (h), and (i) of the Charter[1] by combining the power, person, and the offices of Mayor and Managing Director; Section 406(3) of the Charter[2] by exercising the duties conferred on the Managing Director; and Section 401 of the Charter by not appointing a Temporary Managing Director after City Council refused to confirm Hoh. Section 401 of the Charter provides, in relevant part:

(a) Within ninety (90) days of taking office, the Mayor, with the approval of City Council, shall appoint a Managing Director for an indefinite term, subject to at least a biennial review, and fix the Managing Director's compensation. The Managing Director need not be a resident of the City at the time of appointment, but after appointment shall reside in the City. The ...

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