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AGO 1955 No. 85 - May 27, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES ‑- SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES ‑- OATH

(1) Present employees of the state of Washington or its political subdivisions who have previously signed a statement required by chapter 254, Laws of 1951, must take the oath pertaining to subversive organizations as required by chapter 377, Laws of 1955.

(2) The Standards Committee has no statutory authority to promulgate rules or regulations concerning the anti-subversive [[antisubversive]]oath, but may make recommendations.

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                                                                   May 27, 1955

Honorable Sverre N. Omdahl
Chairman, Standards Committee
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 85

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of April 29, 1955, you have requested our opinion on the effect of chapter 377, Laws of 1955.  This law requires employees of the state and its political subdivisions to take an anti-subversive oath.  Your specific questions are:  (1) Must all present employees who have already signed the statement required by chapter 254, Laws of 1951, take this oath; and (2) does the administrative board (Standards Committee) have the power to issue rules and regulations relative to the administration and enforcement of this act.

            It is our opinion: (1) That present employees must take the oath; and (2) although the act places the duty of implementing its provisions upon the person or agency who employs or appoints, it would appear desirable to have the Standards Committee recommend forms and procedures in order to secure a uniform administration of the act.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 9.81.070 (the 1951 act) required applicants for public employment to sign a written statement containing notice that it was subject to the penalties of perjury.  The statement was designed to determine whether or not such applicants were subversive persons as defined in the act.

            The 1955 act contains several significant provisions not included in the statute it amended.  It applies to present employees as well as to applicants for employment.  It requires each employee and applicant to state under oath whether or not he or she is a member of the communist party or other subversive organization.  This is a more formal requirement than the written statement previously required.  It expands the definition of subversive person to include one who is a member of the communist party.

            Thus it can be seen that the statements submitted by present state employees will not constitute compliance with the 1955 act for two reasons: (1) They were not made under oath; and (2) the definition of subversive person has been expanded.

            The responsibility for enforcing the act has been fixed by the legislature as follows, in section 1:

            "* * * Every such person, board, commission, council, department, court, or other agency shall require every employee or applicant for employment to state under oath * * *"

            It seems clear that the person who appoints or employs is required to make provision for the enforcement of the act in compliance with the legislative mandate.

            We do not believe there was any intention by the legislature that the Standards Committee have any powers or duties in connection with this act.  However we feel certain that if your committee were to make recommendations as to procedure, together with a proposed form of affidavit, that it would be appreciated by those charged with administering the act.  This would tend to make the administration of the act more uniform.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The effective date of the act is June 9, 1955.  The statute fixes no time within which the oath must be given.  After the effective date of the act applicants must comply before they are employed.  With respect to persons who are presently employed; compliance within a reasonable time seems consistent with the intention of the legislature.

            You may be assured that this office will be pleased to assist you in working out any further problems in connection with the administration of this act.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

ANDY ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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