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AGO 1956 No. 302 - July 19, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- RIGHT TO SALARY INCREASE DURING TERM ‑- EXTENSION OF TERM

Where a city official's term has been extended for one year for the purpose of harmonizing election dates and the legislature grants an increased salary for such official he is not entitled to the increase in salary during the added year of his term.

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                                                                    July 19, 1956

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 302


Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins, Chief Examiner

            Division of Municipal Corporations

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion on a question which we state as follows:

            Where the term of a city official, because of the provisions of chapter 55, Laws of 1955, has been extended for one year, is the city official entitled to the increased compensation provided by chapter 309, Laws of 1955, for the extended year of this term, or to an increased salary put into effect by first class cities operating under the charter form of government?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 55, Laws of 1955, provides in part that elections of city officials shall no longer be held in odd numbered years, but shall be held in even numbered years.  It further provides that any city official whose term of office would normally expire in 1957 or 1959 shall  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] continue in office until the next even numbered year when an election may be held and successors elected.

            Chapter 309, Laws of 1955, sets forth the salaries of mayors and commissioners of second and third class cities.  The salaries are materially increased over those previously authorized.  Certain first class cities operating under the charter form of government have, by vote of the people, increased salaries of city officials.

            We believe that a city official holding over for the additional year following the normal expiration of his term is not entitled to an increase in salary.

            Section 8, Article XI, of the Washington State Constitution, provides in part:

            ". . . The salary of any county, city, town, or municipal officers shall not be increased or diminished after his election, orduring his term of office; nor shall the term of any such officer be extended beyond the period for which he is elected or appointed."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The constitutional prohibition against increase or decrease in salaries was extended by the twenty-third amendment to officials of combined city and county municipal corporations.

            It is our opinion that the words "shall continue in office" do not denote an extension of the existing term of office within the meaning of the constitution.  The original term and the additional year are merely one term.  Our court, inState ex rel. Pendleton v. Superior Court, 119 Wash. 73, 79, makes the following statement under similar facts:

            "It is argued that the foregoing construction has the effect to extend the term of an officer beyond the term for which he is elected, and is thus in violation of § 8, art. XI, of the constitution.  But an examination of the statutes under which these several boards are elected will show that they are elected not only for a named period of time, but 'until their successors are elected and qualified.'  Since the legislature and not the constitution fixes the term, the time elapsing between the end of the definitely named period and the election and qualification of the successor is a part of the officer's term,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] and the term is not extended in the constitutional sense by an act of a subsequent legislature fixing the time for the election and qualification of a successor at a later period than it was fixed in the act creating the office.  [Citing cases.]"

            The foregoing constitutional prohibition against increasing salaries during the term of office applies to the instant problem.

            The policy underlying the provision forbidding increase or diminution of salaries can be found inState ex rel. Davis v. Clausen, 47 Wash. 372, andState ex rel. Port of Seattle v. Wardall, 107 Wash. 606.

            We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

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