HYK Constr. Co. v. Smithfield Twp., 8 A.3d 1009 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2010).

When a conflict of interest exists at municipal level, trial court should order the municipal agency conducting the hearing to continue after resolving the conflict rather than supplant the municipal agency with a hearing officer.
Case Details:

Applicant sought a conditional use for a manufacturing facility.  While the hearings were proceeding before the Board of Supervisors, the Applicant filed a complaint in the trial court to enjoin the Board of Supervisors from hearing the application due to a perceived conflict of interest with respect to an objector.  The Applicant requested that the trial court decide the matter.  The trial court ordered a hearing officer to hear the application and denied party status to certain objectors.

The Commonwealth Court reversed the trial court’s order and determined that there was no impropriety where the Township funded an association that was objecting to the Applicant’s conditional use because there were sufficient divisional walls between the two entities.  Even so, the Commonwealth Court stated that the appropriate remedy when a court determines a conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety exists at the municipal level is not for a trial court to hear the matter, but to remand and conduct a new hearing after remedying the impropriety or conflict.

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