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In re Appeal of 2012 Financial Audit for Greene Twp.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

April 1, 2015

In Re: Appeal of 2012 Financial Audit for Greene Township. Appeal of: Ellen Gnandt

Argued December 8, 2014

Appealed from No. 1347-2013 CIVIL. Common Pleas Court of the County of Pike. Chelak, J.

Marshall E. Anders, Stroudsburg, for appellant.

Michael G. Crotty, Chester Springs, for appellees.

BEFORE: HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

Page 373

Ellen Gnandt (Appellant), former treasurer of Greene Township (Township), appeals from the March 19, 2014 order of the Court of Common Pleas of Pike County (trial court), which held that Appellant lacks standing to appeal the Township's annual audit/financial report for the 2012 fiscal year.

Appellant served as the Township's treasurer during the 2012 fiscal year; she left this position on January 14, 2013. The records maintained by Appellant as treasurer during 2012 were audited, and the Annual Audit and Financial Report of Greene Township for the 2012 fiscal year was filed on August 29, 2013.

On October 8, 2013, Appellant filed a statutory appeal from the audit pursuant to section 909 of the Second Class Township Code (Code).[1] (Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 3a-8a.) In her appeal, Appellant asserted that: (1) the Township did not provide all records to the auditors; (2) certain amounts were incorrectly reported by the auditors; and (3) certain items were paid in error, causing a loss to the Township, and should be surcharged to the responsible Township supervisors.[2]

The Township and auditor William Owens & Co. (together, the Township) filed a motion to quash Appellant's appeal, asserting that Appellant lacked standing to appeal the sums reported and paid. (R.R. at 10a-13a.) The Township alternatively asserted that even if Appellant had standing to challenge those figures, she did not have standing to demand a surcharge against individual supervisors.

Appellant filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the motion to quash; the Township filed an answer; and, on January 27, 2014, the trial court heard oral argument on whether Appellant had standing under section 909 of the Code.

Page 374

Section 909 of the Code states as follows:

The board of supervisors or any elector or taxpayer of the township or any officer whose account is settled or audited by the board of auditors may appeal from any settlement or audit of the board of auditors to the court of common pleas within forty-five days after the settlement has been filed in the court of common pleas.

53 P.S. § 65909 (emphasis added). Appellant is not a supervisor, resident, or taxpayer in the Township.[3]

In support of its motion to quash, the Township argued that only current supervisors, electors, taxpayers, or officers have standing under section 909 of the Code to file an appeal from the audit. In response, Appellant noted that the word " any" means " one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind," and she asserted that the use of the word " any" in the phrase " any officer " is broad enough to encompass a former officer. The trial court observed that Appellant did not address the definition of " officer," and it cited the following definitions of " officer" from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online : " a person who has an important position in a company, organization or government" or a person " who holds an office of trust, authority, or command." [4] The trial court noted that these definitions are consistent in their use of the present tense and concluded that " any officer" would therefore mean whatever person presently holds an office. The trial court also rejected ...


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