The legislature of this State has passed four acts which by their terms apply to pensions for paid firemen of the City of Atlanta. They are the acts of 1924, 1931, 1935, and 1945. Under the act of 1924 (Ga. L. 1924, p. 167), any paid member of the fire department in a city having a population in excess of 150,000 by the United States census of 1920 or any subsequent census could retire from active service, as a matter of right, upon becoming totally disabled in the line of duty or after twenty-five years' active service with such fire department; and, in either event, he would thereafter be paid for the rest of his life a monthly pension in an amount equal to one-half of the monthly salary he was receiving at the time of his retirement. The act also provided for the creation of a board of trustees and for
This litigation arose when the City of Atlanta filed a petition in the Superior Court of Fulton County for a declaratory judgment, and other related relief, against Paul Anglin Sr., a retired city fireman, thirty-two other named and similarly situated retired firemen, and five named persons in their official capacity as members of the Board of Trustees of the Firemen's Pension Fund for the City of Atlanta, the full membership of the board as then constituted. The petition was, however, subsequently dismissed voluntarily by the plaintiff as to the members of the Board of Trustees of the Firemen's Pension Fund, but on petition therefore by such trustees they were later allowed to intervene and become parties defendant. As to this there was no exception. The amended petition alleges: that the defendant firemen were employees of and on the payrolls of the City of Atlanta's fire department when the pension act of 1924 was passed and approved, and thereafter until each retired as a matter of right after 25 years' active service with the fire department; that each contributed to the city's pension fund the full amount required of him; that each upon retirement applied for and was granted a monthly pension of $100 under the terms and pursuant to the provisions of the pension act of 1924, as amended by the act of 1945, which amount each has since accepted and retained; that each during 1951 applied to the Board of Trustees of the Firemen's Pension Fund for the City of Atlanta for an adjustment of his respective pension claim and demanded payment, from the date of his retirement, of a monthly amount equal to one-half of the salary he was receiving monthly at the time of his retirement, less the amount of $100 which he had previously received monthly as a pension, and also demanded payment thereafter of a pension during the rest of his life of an amount per month equal to one-half of his monthly salary as of the date of his retirement; and that the Board of Trustees of the Firemen's Pension Fund approved his application as made and ordered its treasurer to make the adjusted payments accordingly, but such payments have
The defendant firemen demurred to the amended petition and by answer averred that they are entitled to the full pension benefits provided for by the act of 1924, as amended by the act of 1931, alleging also that the amending acts of 1935 and 1945 are unconstitutional and void, since they lessen and thereby impair vested contract rights in violation of article 1, section 3, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of 1877. Upon the pleadings, the court decreed that the defendant firemen were entitled to a monthly pension for life equal to one-half of the monthly amount each was receiving as a salary at the time of his respective retirement, and that each was entitled to be paid in a lump sum to January 1, 1952, the amount set opposite his name in paragraph 27 of the answer to the petition. The plaintiff excepted and sued out a writ of error to this court. Held:
1. There is no merit in the contention that the act of 1924 offends article 1. section 4, paragraph 1 of the Constitution of 1877, which provides that "Laws of a general nature shall have uniform operation throughout the State, and no special law shall be enacted in any case for which provision has been made by an existing general law." The act applies alike to all cities of this State having a population in excess of 150,000 by the United States census of 1920 or any subsequent census and is itself a general law, and not a special act or law as the plaintiff contends. See Barge v. Camp, 209 Ga. 38 (70 S.E.2d 360), and the cases there cited.
2. Nor is there any merit in the contention that the act of 1924, and particularly sections 2, 4, and 5 thereof, and the amending act of 1931,
3. That part of section 6 of the amending act of 1931 which reads, "Should there be on hand insufficient funds to carry out the purposes of this Act, such additional funds as are necessary therefor shall be paid out of the treasury of the city," is germane to the general purpose of the act as indicated in the title, and does not as contended offend article 3, section 7, paragraph 8 of the Constitution of 1877, which provides that "No law or ordinance shall pass which refers to more than one subject matter, or contains matter different from what is expressed in the title thereof." The general purpose of the act under attack, as indicated by its title, was to create pensions in favor of retired firemen and to provide funds necessary for their payment; consequently, the imposition of an obligation on the city affected thereby to supply funds when the amount on hand, as raised from other sources, was insufficient to carry out the purpose of the act was legitimately within the general scope of the act as indicated by its title. See, in this connection, Welborne v. State, 114 Ga. 793, 816 (40 S. E. 857); Davis v. Warde, 155 Ga. 748, 771 (118 S. E. 378); Wright v. Fulton County, 169 Ga. 354 (2a) (150 S. E. 262); Williamson v. Housing Authority of Augusta, 186 Ga. 673, 679 (199 S. E. 43); Walker Electrical Co. v. Walton, 203 Ga. 246, 252 (46 S.E.2d 184). In Davis v. Warde, supra, it was said: "The title to an act need not contain a synopsis of all of its provisions. Any legislation which is germane to the general purpose of the act as indicated in the title can be properly embraced in the act, and, no matter what may be its details, the legislation embraced therein will not render the act subject to the objection that it contains matter variant from the title, so long as such matter is legitimately within the general scope of the purpose of the act as indicated in the title."
4. In the circumstances of this case and adhering to our rulings in Trotzier v. McElroy, 182 Ga. 719 (186 S. E. 817), West v. Trotzier, supra, and Bender v. Anglin, 207 Ga. 108 (60 S.E.2d 756), it logically follows that there is no merit in the contention here made that the amending act of 1931, and particularly that part of section 6 thereof which is quoted in our statement of the facts, offends article 7, section 16, paragraph 1 of the Constitution of 1877, which provides that "The General Assembly shall not by vote, resolution or order, grant any donation or gratuity in favor of any person, corporation, or association." We cannot agree with the argument of counsel for the plaintiff in error that West v. Trotzier, supra, is, on its facts, distinguishable from the case at bar.
5. The plaintiff contends, and counsel has earnestly argued, that the
6. There is likewise no merit in the plaintiff's contention that the defendant firemen are, under the facts of this case, estopped by conduct to question the validity of the amending pension acts of 1935 and 1945, or that they have by conduct waived their pension rights under the provisions of the pension act of 1924, as amended by the act of 1931. There is no estoppel by conduct where both parties have equal knowledge or equal means of obtaining the truth. Wilkins v. McGehee, 86 Ga. 764 (13 S. E. 84). "In order for an equitable estoppel to arise, there must generally be some intended deception in the conduct or declarations of the party to be estopped, or such gross negligence as to amount to constructive fraud, by which another has been misled to his injury." Code, § 38-116. In Tinsley v. Rice, 105 Ga. 285, 290 (31 S. E. 174), it was held: "In order to constitute estoppel by conduct, there must concur, first, a false representation or concealment of facts; second, it must be within the knowledge of the party making the one or concealing the other; third, the person affected thereby must be ignorant of the truth; fourth, the person seeking to influence the conduct of the other must act intentionally for that purpose; and fifth, persons complaining shall have been induced to act by reason of such conduct of the other." In this case no facts appear from which it can be said that the plaintiff has been injured or placed at any disadvantage by the conduct of the defendant firemen, and the record discloses no fact or circumstance from which we would be authorized to hold that the defendant firemen by conduct expressly or impliedly waived their pension rights under the act of 1924, as amended by the act of 1931, or agreed to a novation of their contract, as contended; consequently, no estoppel or waiver of vested rights or novation resulted therefrom as contended. See, in this connection, Best v. Maddox, 185 Ga. 78 (194 S. E. 578).
7. In the circumstances of this case and under the rulings made in Trotzier v. McElroy, West v. Trotzier, Bender v. Anglin, all supra, and Pierce v. Rhodes, 208 Ga. 554 (67 S.E.2d 771), the trial court correctly held that the amending pension acts of 1935 and 1945 offend article 1, section 3, paragraph 2 of the Constitution of 1877, and are therefore unconstitutional and void insofar as they relate to a reduction of the pension benefits fixed by the act of 1924, as amended
8. For no reason assigned is the judgment complained of erroneous.
Judgment affirmed. All the Justices concur, except Wyatt and Almand, JJ., who dissent, and Atkinson, P.J., who did not participate. Head, J., concurs in the judgment only.