VETERANS ‑- COUNTIES ‑- RELIEF ‑- PROCEDURES FOR PAYMENTS OF COUNTY VETERANS' RELIEF BENEFITS
(1) The Allied Veterans' Council of Washington State does not qualify as a veterans' organization for the purposes of RCW 73.08.010.
(2) Chapter 73.08 RCW does not authorize a board of county commissioners to contract with an outside organization for the purpose of administering its county veterans' relief fund.
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May 22, 1973
Honorable R. Frank Atwood
State Senator, 42nd District
317 Park Ridge
Bellingham, Washington 98225
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 55
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on certain questions pertaining to the legal status of an organization described and identified in your letter as the "Allied Veteran's Council." We paraphrase your questions as follows:
(1) Does the Allied Veterans' Council qualify as a veterans' organization for the purposes of RCW 73.08.010?
(2) Does chapter 73.08 RCW authorize a board of county commissioners to contract with an outside organization for the purpose of administering its county veterans' relief fund?
(3) Does the Allied Veterans' Council as presently constituted have the capacity to enter into a contract with Whatcom county to assist in the payment of veterans' relief fund benefits?
We answer question (1) in the negative, and respond to questions (2) and (3) in the manner set forth in our analysis.
By way of background for your questions you have advised us as to the following underlying circumstances:
"The Whatcom County Commissioners propose allocation of funds to a local veteran's organization for the purpose of operating an information center for veterans, and aiding in the administration of the veteran's relief fund.
Orig. Op. Page 2
"The local veteran's organization is known as the Allied Veteran's Council. It is composed of five delegates from each chapter and post of each veteran organization, chartered by act of Congress, existing in Whatcom County. The Allied Veteran's Council has a constitution and by-laws, but is not incorporated as a nonprofit corporation under the laws of this state.
"The Commissioners hope to execute a contract with the Allied Veteran's Council. Under the terms of the contract the County would pay $300 per month from the current expense fund and in return the Council would provide facilities, equipment, and employ personnel, etc., to operate the veteran's information center. At least annually the Whatcom County Treasurer would then withdraw monies from the veteran's relief fund and reimburse the county current expense fund, as authorized by RCW 73.08.080."
The statute to which you have last referred, RCW 73.08.080, is part of an RCW chapter relating to county aid to "indigent and suffering" war veterans and their dependents. This particular section, which relates primarily to the funding of such relief, was last amended by § 1, chapter 57, Laws of 1969, to read in material part as follows:
"The boards of county commissioners of the several counties in this state shall levy, in addition to the taxes now levied by law, a tax in a sum equal to the amount which would be raised by not less than one‑eightieth of one mill and not greater than three‑tenths of a mill against the actual value of the taxable property of their respective counties, to be levied and collected as now prescribed by law for the assessment and collection of taxes, for the purpose of creating the veteran's relief fund for the relief of honorably discharged veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States in the Civil War, in the war of Mexico or in any of the Indian wars, or the Spanish-American Orig. Op. Page 3
war or the Philippine insurrection, in the First World War, or Second World War or Korean conflict, or Viet Nam conflict, and the indigent wives, husbands, widows, widowers and minor children of such indigent or deceased veterans, to be disbursed for such relief by such board of county commissioners: . . . Provided further, That the costs incurred in the administration of said veteran's relief fund shall be computed by the county treasurer not less than annually and such amount may then be transferred from the veteran's relief fund as herein provided for to the county current expense fund."
As a state statute, this section originated as § 2, chapter 37, Laws of 1893, amending a previous enactment of the 1888 Washington Territorial legislature. Section 1 of this 1893 act, also amending the earlier Territorial law, is now to be found (as modified by various subsequent amendments thereto) in RCW 73.08.010 wherein it is provided that:
"For the relief of indigent and suffering Union soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the Civil War, in the war of Mexico or in any of the Indian wars in the United States, the Spanish-American war and Philippine insurrection, soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the United States army, navy, or marine corps between April 6, 1917, and the date upon which peace is finally concluded with the German government and its allies, or soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the army, navy or marine corps of the United States in any other foreign war, insurrection, or expedition, which service shall be governed by the issuance of a campaign badge by the government of the United States of America, or for any members of the armed forces of the United States in the existing war between the United States and Japan and her allies, or the existing war between the United States and Germany and her allies, Orig. Op. Page 4
and their families or the families of those deceased, who need assistance in any city, town or precinct in this state, the board of commissioners of the county in which said city, town or precinct is situated shall provide such sum or sums of money as may be necessary, to be drawn upon by the commander and quartermaster, or commander and adjutant of any post, camp or chapter of any national organization of veterans now, or which may hereafter be, chartered by an act of congress in said city or town upon recommendation of the relief committee of said post, camp or chapter: Provided, Said soldier, sailor or marine, or the families of those deceased are and have been residents of the state for at least twelve months, and the orders of said commander and quartermaster, or commander and adjutant shall be the proper voucher for the expenditure of said sum or sums of money."
Although there is a slight variance between the listing of qualifying wars or conflicts under this statute and under RCW 73.08.080, supra, we will not concern ourselves with this matter here but, rather, will assume for purposes of discussion that the anticipated beneficiaries of your county's proposed plan would be veterans (or their dependents) who fall under the terms of both statutes. Dating as they do to the same original source and dealing with the same subject ‑ county veterans' relief ‑ it is apparent that these two provisions must be construed in pari materia. Accord, State ex rel. Draham v. Yelle, 175 Wash. 33, 26 P.2d 622 (1933); and Seattle v. State, 54 Wn.2d 139, 338 P.2d 126 (1959). Accordingly, while RCW 73.08.080, supra, as last amended by § 1, chapter 57, Laws of 1969, now sets forth the manner in which a county veterans' relief fund and its administration are to be financed ‑ together with its listing of the categories of veterans who are eligible to receive relief payments from this fund if ". . . indigent and suffering . . ." within the meaning of RCW 73.08.010, supra ‑ this latter statute must be viewed as continuing both to supply Orig. Op. Page 5
the aforesaid necessity for a finding of indigency1/ and to establish the procedures for making any disbursements from the fund. As to this point the statute states, unequivocally, that these moneys are
". . . to be drawn upon by the commander and quartermaster, or commander and adjutant of any post, camp or chapter of any national organization of veterans now, or which may hereafter be, chartered by an act of congress . . . upon recommendation of the relief committee of said post, camp or chapter: . . ."
The only exception to this requirement is to be found in RCW 73.08.030 as follows:
"If there be no post, camp or chapter of any national organization of veterans now, or which may hereafter be, chartered by an act of congress, in any precinct in which it should be granted, the county commissioners of the county in which said precinct is, may accept and pay the orders drawn, as hereinbefore provided by the commander and quartermaster, or commander and adjutant, of any post, camp or chapter of any national organization of veterans now, or which may hereafter be, chartered by an act of congress, located in the nearest city or town, upon the recommendation of a relief committee who shall be residents of the said precinct in which the relief may be furnished."
From the facts outlined in your letter, however, it appears clear that there is not only one but there are several qualified veterans organizations in existence in Whatcom county; i.e., organizations which, operating by themselves, could be allowed to draw upon the county veterans' relief fund in the manner contemplated by the last-above quoted portion of RCW 73.08.010. The difficulty with the "Allied Veteran's Council," as you have described it, is that this council, as such, does not itself constitute such a qualified veterans' organization but, instead, is a body composed of delegates from a Orig. Op. Page 6
number of such qualified organizations. Accordingly, it must be seen that as thus constituted, the council simply does not meet the present statutory requirements of this legislative enactment. For this reason, and with full acknowledgment of the ability of the legislature to alter this situation by the enactment of appropriate amendments at its next session, that we must answer your first question as above stated in the negative.2/
As far as questions (2) and (3) are concerned, we find nothing in either RCW 73.08.010 or 73.08.080, supra, which would authorize a board of county commissioners simply to turn over its veterans' relief fund to an outside body for the purposes of administration and disbursement ‑ irrespective of whether or not that body qualifies as a veterans' organization under the first of these statutes. See, also, in this regard, RCW 36.29.020 which requires the county treasurer to keep all moneys belonging to his county in his own possession until disbursed according to law; also, RCW 36.29.010 which designates the treasurer as the person to receive and disburse all county funds.
The only other function to be performed under the relief fund statutes is that of determining the identity of the statutorily eligible individuals who are to be the recipients of the monetary benefits of these statutes ‑ and this function, as we have seen, is to be performed by one or more qualified local veterans' organizations under RCW 73.08.010, acting as such, unless no such local organizations are in existence in the particular county. Accordingly, it is a bit difficult for us to understand exactly what statutory function would be left to be performed by the "Allied Veteran's Council" under the contract contemplated by your second and third questions ‑ even assuming, for the purposes of discussion, that this body is a legal entity having the capacity to enter into any contract.3/
Orig. Op. Page 7
Perhaps you might enlighten us further with respect to this point if the foregoing does not adequately answer the questions you have posed. Otherwise, we trust that this opinion, as presently written, will be sufficient and will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/See, also, Wash. Const., Article VIII, § 7, which prohibits all gifts of county or other municipal funds to private recipients ". . . except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm."
2/We would, of course, be most happy to assist you in the drafting of such amendatory legislation should you desire us to do so.
3/In order to answer this specific question it would, as you will readily understand, be necessary for us to examine the Constitution and bylaws of the council in order to determine its legal capacity to enter into binding contracts of any kind.