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AGO 1954 No. 211 - February 18, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES ‑- CHARTER PROVISIONS ‑- INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC LANGUAGE ‑- OFFICE OF MAYOR "AS FULL TIME POSITION"

Section 33A, proposed amendment to the charter of the city of Bellingham, if adopted, would require the mayor to keep his office open and to apply his personal time and attention to the duties of that office during the hours fixed by the charter, or by ordinance, or if not so fixed, during recognized office hours.

It would not prohibit personal financial interests in other enterprises, nor the application of his time thereto during other than regular office hours.

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                                                                February 18, 1954

Honorable Malcolm McBeath
State Representative
319 E. Champion Street
Bellingham, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 211

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your letter of February 5, 1954, previously acknowledged by this office.  Your question is: What is the correct legal interpretation of "full time position" as used in Sec. 33A, proposed amendment to the Bellingham Charter?

            Our conclusion is:

            The proposal, if adopted, would require the mayor to keep his office open, and to apply his personal time and attention to the duties of his office during the hours fixed by the charter, or by ordinance, or during recognized office hours.  It would not prohibit personal financial interests in other enterprises, nor the application of his time thereto during other than regular office hours.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Certain citizens of Bellingham have petitioned to have placed on the ballot at the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] next municipal election, a proposed amendment to the city charter to be designated "Section 33A," providing, in part, that the

            "* * * Position of Mayor shall be a full time position * * *"

            We are requested to render our opinion on the correct legal interpretation of the underscored phrase, as used in the proposed amendment.

            The term "full time" as used in connection with a position of employment, has acquired a definite meaning by popular usage.  It means afull working day as fixed by law or by contract, and where it is not so fixed, it means thecustomary period of work, either per day, week, or month.  See Cote v. Bachelder-Worcester Co., 160 Atl. 101; Beaver Dam Coal Co. v. Hocker, 202 Ky. 398, 259 S.W. 1010;American Tobacco Co. V. Grider, 243 Ky. 87, 47 S.W. (2d) 735.

            We are aware that Bellingham is a city of the first class organized under a charter form of government pursuant to Constitution Article XI, § 10, and RCW 35.22.030.  It could have expressly fixed the office hours for the position of mayor in its charter.  This has apparently not been done, but the city council is vested with specific authority to do so by ordinance.  RCW 35.21.175.  In either case, the fixing of the office hours by the city would control the interpretation of the phrase.  If the hours have not been fixed either by charter or ordinance, the alternative rule would apply.  The office would then be required, under the language of § 33A to remain open during thecustomary period of work each day, week, and month.

            The second consideration is whether the mayor, under such a provision, could maintain any outside business interest.  This exact point was considered by the supreme court of Wisconsin in Johnson v. Stoughton Wagon Co., 118 Wis. 438, 95 N.W. 394.  The executive had, by contract, agreed "to give his full time to the company's services."  The court discussed the meaning of that phrase as follows:

            "* * * It certainly does not require 24 hours a day of an employee's time, nor, indeed, every moment of his waking hours.  Mobile, etc., R. Co. v. Owen, 121 Ala. 505, 25 South. 612.  On the other hand, it undoubtedly does require that he shall make that employment  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] his business, to the exclusion of the conduct of another business such as usually calls for the substantial part of a manager's time or attention.  We cannot think, however, that the business man who undertakes to make the affairs of a corporation or of a firm his business, and to give to it his full time, absolutely excludes himself from everything else.  * * * They may seek and make investments of their private funds, so that they do not trespass substantially upon the ordinary business hours; and, in analogy, it certainly is recognized as customary that they may give the benefit of their judgment and supervision to the care of moneys of relatives not able to protect their own interests.  It is also certainly customary that men who consider themselves engrossed in active business do not hesitate to occupy places on the directory of banks, or even more important offices in such institutions.  * * *"

            We think the philosophy expressed in the above quotation is sound.  We also believe it to be applicable in interpreting your charter provision.  The term "full time" does not mean that the official need exclude himself from outside financial interests.  Nor would it mean that he could not maintain personal business interests, provided such interests did not interfere with the keeping of regular office hours and the full execution of the duties of his office.

            We conclude that the mayor, under such a charter provision, would not be prohibited from maintaining private business and financial interests, subject to the limitations discussed above.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General

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