Controller's Mistake That It Was Improper to Authorize Expenditure of the Special Tax Revenue for General Purposes

In Duncan Meter Corp. v. Gritsavage, 361 Pa. 607, 65 A.2d 402, 41 Mun. L Rep. 10 (1949), which upheld a writ in mandamus against a third class city controller, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court cited Section 1706 of the Third Class City Code and observed that mandamus will lie to compel proper action if the controller refused to countersign the voucher warrant presented to him based upon an abuse of his discretion or a mistaken view of the law. The court held that Section 1706 gave the controller certain discretion to satisfy himself as to the legality of the payment to be made to the plaintiff under a parking meter leasing contract but that "such discretion must be one adhering to well known and established principles of law, rather than an arbitrary, fanciful or capricious one." Id., 361 Pa. at 610, 65 A.2d 403. The Supreme Court first determined in Duncan Meter, however, that the parking meter leasing contract was not invalid, and it then concluded that the controller had no right or duty to decide if it had been breached or whether the city should act upon that breach. The court accordingly concluded that the controller's refusal to sign the warrant was based in part upon a mistaken view of the law and in part upon an abuse of his discretion. Also in Marflak v. City of Clairton, 97 Pa. Commw. 643, 510 A.2d 874 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1986), this Court cited the principles enunciated in Duncan Meter. After first determining that no intentional irregularities existed in the city's levying a special tax and then commingling the excess revenue into the general tax revenue fund, this Court upheld issuance of a mandamus writ against the controller of Clairton, a third class city, requiring him to countersign checks for the excess revenue. The Court held that the controller was mistaken in his belief that it was improper to authorize expenditure of the special tax revenue for general purposes.