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AGO 1955 No. 65 - April 20, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

WATER DISTRICT ‑- EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND ACCIDENT PLAN

A water district organized under the laws of the state of Washington cannot enter into a contract nor authorize a health and accident plan at district expense for employees without statutory authority.

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                                                                   April 20, 1955

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County-City Building
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 65


Attention:  !ttMr. K. G. Smiles

            Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            In answer to your request for an opinion from our office concerning the following question:

            "Can a water district organized under the laws of the State of Washington lawfully provide health, accident and related benefits to its employees without payroll deductions or contributions on the part of the employees?",

            it is the opinion of this office that the water district board of commissioners cannot authorize a health and accident plan at district expense for employees.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Water districts, as other municipal corporations, are creatures of statute and owe their existence to the laws which created them.  The Revised Code of Washington, Title 57, contains the controlling code provisions covering water districts organized under the law of the state of Washington.  The legislature has exclusive power over water districts and water district commissioners  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and the functions they shall exercise.  They may pursue and exercise power only in strict compliance with statutes conferring the power.  State ex rel. King County v. Superior Court for King County, 33 Wn. (2d) 76, 80, 204 P. (2d) 514.

            Another fundamental proposition of law is that authority of law is necessary to an expenditure of public funds.

            "It is elementary that the duties and powers of a municipal corporation relating to the payment or disbursement of public funds are wholly regulated by statute * * *"State ex rel. Thurston County v. Department of Labor and Industries, 167 Wash. 629, 831, 9 P. (2d) 1085.

            There are no statutes authorizing the board of water district commissioners to enter into contracts or otherwise provide, at water district expense, health and accident coverage for their employees.

            In the absence of statutory authority, it is our opinion that a water district organized under the laws of the state of Washington cannot lawfully provide health, accident, and related benefits to its employees without payroll deductions or contributions on the part of the employees.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


MAURICE M. EPSTIEN
Assistant Attorney General

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