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McCord v. Pennsylvanians for Union Reform

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

September 24, 2014

Robert M. McCord, in his official capacity as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff
v.
Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, and Simon Campbell, President, Defendants

Argued September 11, 2014

Court of ORIGINAL JURISDICTION.

Christopher B. Craig, Chief Counsel, Harrisburg, for plaintiff.

Craig J. Staudenmaier, Harrisburg, for defendants.

John R. Bielski, Philadelphia, for intervenors.

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉ E COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE COVEY.

OPINION

Page 756

ANNE E. COVEY, Judge

Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (PFUR) and its president Simon Campbell (Campbell) (collectively, PFUR) filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the Amended Complaint filed by Robert M. McCord, in his official capacity as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (State Treasurer), seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The issue for this Court's review is whether the Amended Complaint states claims upon which relief may be granted with respect to PFUR, and relative to Campbell in his capacity as PFUR's president. Upon review, PFUR's preliminary objections are overruled in part and sustained in part.

PFUR is a non-profit corporation, the purpose of which inter alia is to promote legislation relating to compulsory union membership and its impact on government spending. On January 15, 2014, the State Treasurer received a letter from PFUR's counsel requesting production of the executive branch employee list compiled and submitted to Pennsylvania's Treasury Department (Department) pursuant to Section 614 of The Administrative Code of 1929 (Administrative Code)[1] (List). By

Page 757

January 22, 2014 letter, the State Treasurer replied that it would consider PFUR's request under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL)[2] and respond within 30 days.[3] On January 27, 2014, PFUR informed the State Treasurer that it intended to proceed with a mandamus action to enforce the Administrative Code if the State Treasurer did not comply with its request.

The State Treasurer commenced this action on February 24, 2014 by filing a petition for review in the nature of a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief concerning the application of the RTKL and the personal safety and identification exemptions contained therein to PFUR's request for the List. On March 11, 2014, with leave of Court, the State Treasurer filed an Amended Complaint. On March 28, 2014, PFUR filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to the Amended Complaint. On May 14, 2014, this Court granted an application to intervene filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 13, AFL-CIO; the Federation of State, Cultural and Educational Professionals, Local 2382 American Federation of Teachers of Pennsylvania, AFL-CIO; and the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1776, AFL-CIO (collectively, Unions).[4]

On June 23, 2014, the State Treasurer opposed PFUR's preliminary objections, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Office of Administration (Administration) filed an amicus curiae brief in opposition to PFUR's preliminary objections.[5] On

Page 758

June 26, 2014, the Unions also filed a brief in opposition to PFUR's preliminary objections adopting the State Treasurer's arguments.[6] Oral argument on PFUR's preliminary objections was held before this Court on September 11, 2014.

First Preliminary Objection - Demurrer as to PFUR

PFUR argues in its first preliminary objection that the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted with respect to PFUR. This Court's review of preliminary objections is limited to the pleadings. Pennsylvania State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police v. Dep't of Conservation & Natural Res., 909 A.2d 413 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006), aff'd, 592 Pa. 304, 924 A.2d 1203 (Pa. 2007).

[This Court is] required to accept as true the well-pled averments set forth in the . . . complaint, and all inferences reasonably deducible therefrom. Moreover, the [C]ourt need not accept as true conclusions of law, unwarranted inferences from facts, argumentative allegations, or expressions of opinion. In order to sustain preliminary objections, it must appear with certainty that the law will not permit recovery, and, where any doubt exists as to whether the preliminary objections should be sustained, the doubt must be resolved in favor of overruling the preliminary objections.

Id. at 415-16 (citations omitted).

[N]o testimony or other evidence outside the complaint may be considered to dispose of the legal issues presented by a demurrer. Cardella v. Public Sch [.] Emp [ s .] Retirement [Bd.], 827 A.2d 1277, 1282 (Pa.[]Cmwlth.[]2003) (citations omitted) (emphasis added). Respondents' factual assertions outside the allegations of the complaint may not be considered in regard to the demurrer.

Smith v. Pennsylvania Emps. Benefit Trust Fund, 894 A.2d 874, 879 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) (quotation marks omitted).

The Amended Complaint makes clear that the State Treasurer is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief " in response to the written threat by [PFUR] to initiate a mandamus action against the State Treasurer if [he does] not produce an unredacted copy of the [List] pursuant to the Administrative Code (71 P.S. § 234) as previously demanded." Amended Complaint at 3. The State Treasurer expressed in the Amended Complaint that " [d]espite [PFUR]'s threat, [he] is unwilling to take any action that would place the personal or physical security of public employees at risk or publicize confidential information." Amended Complaint at 3.

A. Declaratory Relief Claim

Section 7532 of the Declaratory Judgments Act, provides: " Courts of record, within their respective jurisdictions, shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief ...


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