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AGO 1954 No. 281 - July 22, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

DEPUTY SHERIFFS ‑- NECESSARY REASONABLE TRAVELING EXPENSE ‑- LUNCH WHILE AWAY FROM COUNTY SEAT ON REGULAR PATROL  ‑- COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- NECESSARY REASONABLE TRAVELING EXPENSE ‑- MILEAGE, MEALS AND LODGING INCURRED IN ATTENDING TO COUNTY BUSINESS AT COUNTY SEAT BY REASON OF COMMISSIONERS' RESIDENCE ELSEWHERE.

1. Deputy Sheriff on regular patrol away from county seat not entitled to lunch at county expense.

2. County commissioner residing away from county seat not entitled to mileage, meals and lodging when performing county business at county seat.

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                                                                     July 7, 1954

Honorable Thurman E. Ward
Prosecuting Attorney
Klickitat County
Goldendale, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 281

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office on two questions as follows:

            "1. The sheriff sends one of his deputies out on regular patrol duty to Dallesport, about 30 miles from the county seat and the residence of the deputy.  The deputy eats one meal at Dallesport while on duty.  Is this meal allowable as county expense?"

            "2. A county commissioner lives at White Salmon, in his own district of course.  Several times each  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] month he travels to Goldendale, the county seat on county business.  Is he allowed his travel expense to Goldendale and his meals and lodging while attending to county business at Goldendale?"

            In our opinion the answer to both of these questions is "No."

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The relevant provision, we believe, is RCW 36.17.030 which provides as follows:

            "All county officers shall be entitled to their necessary reasonable traveling expenses in the performance of their official duties, bills therefor to be audited by the county commissioners:  Provided, That when using their own cars, they shall be allowed not to exceed eight cents per mile for each mile of necessary travel."

            Your first question involves simply the matter of the deputy sheriff's lunch.  We have found no judicial determination directly in point.  However, it seems to us that, taken simply as a logical problem, the question must be answered in the negative.  No one has ever considered that any particular county officer working in the court house would be entitled to noon meals at the expense of the county.  The deputy sheriff is simply working at his daily job and no unusual conditions prevail.  The fact that his job entails travel within the county in this case appears to us to be irrelevant.  Thus if the deputy on an ordinary day must purchase his own lunch, or pay for the groceries at home when at the county seat, we see no reason why the county should stand that expense on an equally ordinary day when his lunch is taken at some other place.

            Your second question contemplates the possibility of county-paid travel, meals, and lodging for county commissioners who must travel to the county seat to perform their duties by virtue of residence elsewhere.  We are informed by the office of the Secretary of State that Klickitat is a county of the fifth class.  Apparently therefore this question is not affected by the provisions of chapter 264, Laws of 1953.  RCW 36.17.030 will continue to control.  The answer is stated in the opinion of June 12, 1941, to the Prosecuting Attorney of Chelan County, a copy of which is attached.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Extensive research fails to disclose any decisions other than those cited in the attached opinion, which are directly in point.  The courts in those cases,Austin v. Barrett, 41 Ariz. 138, 16 P. (2d) 12; and In re Annual Statement of Susquehanna County, 118 Pa. Super. 47, 180 Atl. 148, discussed the question at considerable length and reached the conclusion indicated above.  In the absence of an express statute, (see Marshall County v. Rokke, 134 Minn. 346, 159 N.W. 791) we do not believe that payment by the county of such expenses would be justified.  We do not mean, however, to make any statement upon situations where the county commissioners must necessarily travel in the actual performance of their duties.

            We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

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