On March 27, 2015, Commonwealth Court clarified whether a Borough Mayor is permitted to cast a tie-breaking vote to remove an appointed Borough official.  The Mayor of the Borough of Braddock cast the tie-breaking vote to remove the sitting Borough Solicitor and appoint a new solicitor.

The Borough Solicitor, M. Lawrence Shields III, Esq., was removed from his position as Borough Solicitor in February 2012.  Three members of the 6 member Borough Council voted to remove Shields and 3 voted to retain him.   Over the objection of Shields, who advised Council that the Mayor could not cast a tie-breaking vote, the Borough Mayor cast a vote for removal.

Shields filed a complaint seeking an order immediately reinstating him as Borough solicitor and awarding him payment for the legal fees he would have earned as solicitor since February 2012, plus interest and costs. The Borough asserted in preliminary objections, inter alia, that Section 1003 of the Borough Code, 8 Pa.C.S. § 1003, permitted the Mayor to cast the tie breaking vote.  The trial court sustained the POs and dismissed the Complaint with prejudice, reasoning that the Borough Code was quite clear about the Mayor’s powers when Council was deadlocked. Shields appealed.

Commonwealth Court affirmed.  Commonwealth Court found that Section 1003 authorized the Mayor to cast the tie-breaking vote to fill the vacancy in the office of Borough Solicitor.  Commonwealth Court noted that this is an exception to Section 1005 of the Borough Code, 8 Pa.C.S. § 1005, which mandates, as a general matter, that borough officers serve at Borough Council’s pleasure.

Note that should the Borough Mayor choose not to cast the tie-breaking vote, the Mayor is required to “direct that the matter be tabled until a special meeting of council.”  See 8 Pa.C.S. § 1003.  That special meeting must be held within not less than 5 days and not more than 10 days from the meeting at which the tie occurred.  If a tie or split vote still exists, the mayor is required to cast the deciding vote.

Click here to read: Shields v. Council of Borough of Braddock, 893 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Cmmw. Ct. Mar. 27, 2015).

Edited by:

MEP for PAZ WebsiteMichael E. Peters, Esq.