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AGO 1956 No. 286 - June 25, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- PECUNIARY INTEREST OF DIRECTOR IN CONTRACT WITH DISTRICT

A school director may not be compensated by his district for services rendered in transporting children to school.

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                                                                   June 25, 1956

Honorable Paul A. Klasen, Jr.
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 286


Attention:  Mr. Gary Box, Deputy

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of May 29, 1956, you requested our opinion on the following question:

            "May a school director lawfully be compensated by the district of which he is a director for transporting children to school where he and his wife are the only adult residents of his 'director district' and the distances are such as to make it impractical to hire someone from another portion of the district to transport the children?"

            It is our opinion that such compensation would be contrary to law.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 28.58.290 provides in part as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "It shall be unlawful for any school director to have any pecuniary interest, directly or indirectly, in the purchase of school sites or in the erection of schoolhouses or in the warming, ventilating, furnishing, repairing or insuring thereof, or to be in any manner interested or connected with the furnishing of supplies for the maintenance of schools, or to receive or accept any compensation or reward for services rendered as director orbe employed for hire by the district or by any person having a contract with the district:  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied.)

            InDirectors of School District No. 302 v. Libby, 135 Wash. 233, the court held that the above statute was violated by a contract employing a director's farm servants to haul children to school with the director's team of horses where it appeared that the director received a portion of the money paid for such hauling.

            It would seem obvious that where our supreme court has specifically held that an indirect pecuniary interest is within the ban of the statute that a transportation contract between a school director and his school district would be contrary to law.

            We do not believe the fact that this particular contract would require approval of the school transportation commission affords any legitimate basis to reach a different conclusion.  Although the public policy underlying the statute is the prevention of fraud and special privilege, its language is so sweeping as to demonstrate a legislative determination that the safest way to avoid abuses is to outlaw such contracts altogether.

            Admittedly, this may lead to harsh results in individual cases.  Wives of directors may not teach school in their home districts notwithstanding the fact that they may be the best qualified teachers in a district plagued with a shortage of teachers.

            On September 7, 1954, this office advised the prosecuting attorney of Kitsap County that a school district may not purchase water at rates fixed by the Public Service Commission from a private water company owned by a member of the district school board.  AGO 53-55 No. 311.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The same rule would apply to prevent the furnishing of supplies by the low bidder after competitive bids.

            The language of the statute is positive and makes no exceptions for cases of necessity.  Miller v. Sullivan, 32 Wash. 115.  We are compelled to conclude that, regardless of the number of persuasive reasons which may be advanced in support of the contract between the school director and his district, to compensate him for such service is contrary to existing law.

            Opinions of this office dated June 9, 1938, to the state superintendent of public instruction and June 5, 1952 [[Opinion No. 51-53-320]], to the prosecuting attorney of Lincoln County are hereby overruled.  We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


ANDY G. ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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