ENTITLEMENT OF COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER TO FEE FOR ATTENDANCE AT INSANITY HEARING
County health officer, being a public officer, is not entitled to fee for attendance on insanity hearing.
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April 27, 1956
Honorable Lee J. Reynolds
Port Angeles, Washington Cite as: AGO 55-57 No. 253
Dear Mr. Reynolds:
The inquiry in your letter of March 7, 1956, previously acknowledged, is:
"Can the County Health Officer be paid a fee for attendance on insanity hearings held by the Superior Court?"
It is our conclusion that your question must be answered in the negative.
We assume from the comments in your letter that the health officer in question is a full-time, salaried officer of the county, and that your inquiry concerns his entitlement to a fee in payment for his services, as one of the two licensed physicians required by RCW 71.02.170 (chapter 71.02 RCW being, in principal part, the mental illness hospitalization act), to examine the person alleged to be mentally ill; [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and his entitlement to the fees provided by RCW 71.02.180: ". . . All witnesses shall be allowed witness fees as in criminal cases."
We refer to RCW 42.16.020 which provides as follows:
"No state,county, municipal or other public officer. . . who receives from the state, or from any county or municipality . . . a fixed and stated salary as compensation for services rendered as such public officer,shall be allowed or paid any per diem for attending or testifying on behalf of the state, or any county or municipality . . . at any trial or other judicial proceeding, in any state, county or municipal court. . . nor shall such officer, in any case, be allowed or paid any per diem for attending or testifying in any state or municipal court of this state, in regard to matters and information that have come to his knowledge in connection with and as a result of the performance of his duties as a public officer as foresaid: Provided, That this section shall not apply when any deduction is made from the regular salary of such officer by reason of his being in attendance upon the superior court, and in such cases regular witness fees shall be paid: Provided, further, That if a public officer is subpoenaed and required to appear or testify in judicial proceedings in a county other than that in which he resides, he shall be entitled to receive per diem and mileage as provided by statute in other cases.
"This section shall not apply to police officers when called as witnesses in the superior courts during hours when they are off duty." (Emphasis supplied.)
Recently this office had occasion to analyze the position of county health officers, and it was concluded in an opinion of January 25, 1956 (AGO 55-57 No. 191 [[to State Association of County Commissioners)]]that a county health officer is a public officer.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
It seems clear that if the county health officer in question, being a public officer salaried by the county, is required by the superior court to "attend or testify" in a proceeding under the mental illness hospitalization act (chapter 71.02 RCW), he is ". . . attending or testifying on behalf of the state, or any county . . . at any trial or other judicial proceeding, in any state, county or municipal court . . ." (RCW 42.16.020).
We conclude that RCW 42.16.020 controls and that it admits of no exceptions which are not found in its language.
Very truly yours,
JOHN S. ROBINSON
Assistant Attorney General