JEANNETTE RELIEF FUND CASE.

JEANNETTE RELIEF FUND CASE.

The action brought by the Borough of Jeannette, Pa., for a writ of mandamus, asking that the funds in the Jeannette Volunteer Firemen’s Relief Fund be turned over to the borough, was recently quashed by the county court. The action was brought by the borough after the paid fire department was formed. First a demand was made for the funds. The turning over of the money was refused and then the suit was begun. Chief Katz of the volunteer firemen stated that at a recent meeting it was decided that the members of the companies would stock together; that if the borough would provide a room, or give the volunteers the use of one of the hose houses for meeting purposes, they would retain their organization intact for fire fighting purposes and that the members were willing, if the council granted this request, to answer all alarms of fire in which the whistle was blown and that the members agreed at that meeting that the fund should be used for the purposes of relief of its members, a certain sum to be paid in case of sickness or death. The petition for the writ asked that Joseph C. Rovensky, treasurer of the Jeannette Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association, be commanded to pay over the funds to the treasurer of the borough. The opinion of the court states that: “The relator is the Borough of Jeannette, a municipal corporation. The Jeannette Volunteer Fire Department is a corporation, created by a decree of the Court of Common Picas of Westmoreland County. The application for the charter of that corporation recited: ‘The said corporation is formed for the purpose of controlling and extinguishing fires, and, with those purposes in view, to support fire engines, hooks and ladders, and hose, for the control of fires. * * * The corporation has no capital stock. Fees for membership, and dues from members will be assessed, as the corporation, by its by-laws may determine, which fees and dues will be applied to promoting the purpose for which the corporation is formed.’ Among the corporations of the first class, which the court is by law authorized to incorporate, are corporations for the support of fire engine, hook and ladder, hose, or other companies for the control of fire. ‘The Jeannette Volunteer Fire Department’ was invested with no other function than those which were pertinent to the purpose above mentioned.*** It has no creative power whereby it can legally invest its own members, or others, with authority to engage in a business in which it is not legally authorized to engage. There was no attempt made in the charter or decree, to invest it with any protective or relief features, nor is it alleged in the petition that it has the right to perform any such corporate functions. Neither is it alleged in the petition that the respondent, Joseph C. Rovensky, holds any office or authority conferred by the aforesaid corporation. It is alleged only that he is ‘the treasurer of the Jeannette Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association’—an association not alleged to be incorporated at all. * * * The association is not the corporation, nor is any officer of the corporation alleged to have, in his hands, any of the funds of the borough. It is said in the petition that: ‘The funds of which Relief Association are held for the benefit of those members of the Jeannette Volunteer Fire Department who may be entitled to the same, or any part thereof, according to the rules and regulations of said association.’ ” And further on the court says: “There is no showing of any duty being imposed on respondent by statute, without any remedy for non-performance being given—there is no showing that it is the right of the relator, as against the respondent, to have the act performed which relator seeks to have the court command him to do. * * * There is no showing of any case except one of a disputed ownership of funds with which the ordinary forms of legal procedure may and must deal, in order that the legal rights of the disputants may be ascertained and enforced. It, therefore, follows that the writ must be quashed and it is accordingly so ordered. There is another reason that leads to the same result: The funds which both the relator and the Relief Association claim, have, by consent of the court, been paid into court by the respondent. Although this was done after the service of the writ in this i ase, yet it was done by the court’s authority, and what has been done would render inappropriate any subsequent mandatory order by the same court to the effect that the respondent should pay over the money to the relator, even if it could hereafter show a legal right to it. Mandamus should not command the doing of a vain and impossible thing. The money is now in court and the interested parties, if they desire to further litigate the right thereto, must devise the appropriate procedure for so doing.”

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