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AGO 1955 No. 69 - May 05, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM ‑- ORIGINAL MEMBER ‑- PRIOR SERVICE

Employees retirement system, broadened definition of original member, granting prior service.

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                                                                    May 5, 1955

Honorable Samuel P. Totten
Executive Secretary
State Employees Retirement System
215 East Fifth Avenue
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 69


Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested our opinion whether the following language, "service for the state or any political subdivision thereof prior to the time of the admission of the employer into the system", should be interpreted to mean "prior service" only.

            The language is incorporated in § 1, subsection 6, paragraph f, chapter 277, Laws of 1955, amending RCW 41.40.010.

            Your question is answered in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, subsection 6, paragraph f, chapter 277, Laws of 1955, adds a new paragraph to the definition of "original member" set forth in RCW 41.40.010 (6) and reads as follows:

            "(6) 'Original member' of this retirement system means:

            "* * *

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(f) Any member who has been a contributor under this system for two or more years, after restoring all contributions previously withdrawn, if any, and who has rendered ten or more years of service for the state or any political subdivision thereof prior to the time of the admission of the employer into the system; except that the provisions relating to the minimum amount of retirement allowance for the member upon retirement at age 70 as found in RCW 41.40.190 (4) shall not apply to the member."

            The new paragraph expands the definition of "original member" to include a person who becomes a contributing member of the system for two or more years and can verify that he has had ten or more years of service for an employer.

            Therefore, there are two conditions precedent to establishing the status of an original member under subsection (6) paragraph f: the first being two or more years as a new member of this system; and the second being that the new member has ten or more years of previous service with an employer enrolled or eligible for enrollment in the state employees retirement system.

            "New member" is defined in subsection (7) of this section to mean a person who becomes a member on or after April 1, 1949, except as otherwise provided.

            "Service" is defined in subsection (9) of this section to mean periods of service rendered to an employer for which compensation is paid, and includes time spent in office as an elected or appointed official of an employer.

            However, there are two types of "service" under the act: "prior service" and "membership service".  "Membership service" is defined in subsection (11) of this section to mean (a) in the case of any person who first becomes a member through the admission of an employer into the retirement system on or after April 1, 1949, all service rendered after October 1, 1947; (b) in case of all other members, all service as a member.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Prior service" is defined in subsection (10) of this section to mean all services of an original member rendered to any "employer" prior to October 1, 1947.  A review of the definitions indicates that subsection (6) paragraph (f) is intended to give a new member the right to become an original member after two or more years of current membership service provided he has ten or more years of service.  The ten or more years of service referred to in this paragraph must be "prior service" because the new member is precluded from receiving membership service credit from October 1, 1947, until the date on which he becomes a member of the system.  This conclusion is supported by the fact that the member did not first become a member through the admission of an employer into the retirement system on or after April 1, 1949, as set forth in the definition of membership service.

            If a person becomes a member by the latter process he would be an original member per se, and eligible for all his prior and membership service.  Therefore, the language "service for the state or any political subdivision thereof prior to the time of the admission of the employer into the system" is interpreted to mean "prior service" only.

            We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


LLOYD G. BAKER
Assistant Attorney General

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