Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1955 No. 98 - June 13, 1955
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- CLAIMS ‑- APPROVAL

County Commissioners cannot make valid approval of claim more than thirty days after biennium.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   June 13, 1955

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 98

Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins
            Chief Examiner

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged you have asked for a reexamination of AGO 55-57 No. 32 [[to Robert S. Campbell, Prosecuting Attorney, Grant County on February 24, 1955]].  The holding of that opinion was that a board of county commissioners could, more than thirty days after the end of the fiscal year, lawfully authorize payment, from an appropriation for the preceding fiscal biennium, of a claim presented within the thirty day period following that biennium as specified in RCW 36.40.200.

            Upon reexamination, it is our opinion that this procedure would be unlawful; AGO 55-57 No. 32 [[to Robert S. Campbell, Prosecuting Attorney, Grant County on February 24, 1955]]is hereby overruled

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 36.40.200 provides:

            "All appropriations shall lapse at the end of the fiscal year:  Provided, That the appropriation accounts shall remain open for a period  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of thirty days thereafter for the payment of claims incurred against such appropriations prior to the close of the fiscal year.

            "After such period has expired all appropriations shall become null and void and any claim presented thereafter against any such appropriation shall be provided for in the next ensuing budget:  Provided, That this shall not prevent payments upon uncompleted improvements in progress at the close of the fiscal years."

            It seems clear that one who has furnished supplies or rendered service to the county has a period of thirty days following the end of the fiscal biennium within which to present a claim for payment.

            The difficulty arises from a factual situation in which, although a claim has been properly presented within that period, the county commissioners have not approved the claim until some time after the end of the period.  The first paragraph of the quoted statute indicates that appropriations lapse at the close of the fiscal year, and the second paragraph indicates that the appropriations are completely null and void at the end of the thirty day grace period.  An auditor, therefore, could not lawfully draw a warrant against such an appropriation after the thirtieth day.  Again, it would not be possible for the commissioners to approve a claim against such an appropriation after the thirtieth day.

            The only practical solution under the statute as it now reads would appear to be the establishment, in counties where this is not already done, of a fixed practice by the county commissioners of holding a meeting on the thirtieth day to consider and approve or disapprove claims presented within the period of grace.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo