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AGO 1953 No. 56 - May 27, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC LANDS ‑- PAYMENT OF MEMBERSHIP DUES IN WESTERN STATES LAND COMMISSIONERS' ASSOCIATION

The membership fee of the Commissioner of Public Lands of the State of Washington to the Western States Land Commissioners' Association may be paid with state money from the operations fund if a service is rendered by such association and the efficiency of state service is thereby improved.

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                                                                   May 27, 1953

Honorable Otto A. Case
Commissioner of Public Lands
State of Washington
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 56

Attention:  !ttMr. J. H. Robertson,
            Assistant Commissioner

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for an opinion from this office on the following question:

            "May the Commissioner of Public Lands of the State of Washington, when obtaining membership in the Western States Land Commissioners' Association, pay the membership fee from State funds and if so, to what fund should it be charged."

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The membership fee to the Western States Land Commissioners' Association may be paid with state money from the operations fund if a service is rendered by such association and the efficiency of state service is thereby improved.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The legislature has provided that the commissioner of public lands shall exercise all the powers and perform all the duties prescribed by law with respect to public lands.  RCW 43.12.010.

            The statutes relating to the powers of a commissioner neither expressly prohibit this type of expenditure for membership dues, nor do they expressly authorize it.  However, where power is given by statute to officers, everything lawfully necessary to the execution of the power is given by implication of law.  State v. Great Northern Railway Company, 68 Wash. 257.  Accordingly, if the department is to pay these dues with state funds, the authority therefor must be found within some implied power or authority incident to one of the express powers.

            RCW 43.12.150 provides that the commissioner of public lands shall report and recommend to each session of the legislature any changes in the law relating to the methods of handling the public lands of the state.  Obviously, an affiliation with an organization composed of land commissioners of the western states would be an invaluable source for obtaining information for this biennial report.  In addition thereto, we assume that the functions of the association are intended to further the interests of efficient operations for the state department; that both directly and indirectly the organization is a service to the state; and as such that membership therein will benefit and facilitate this state government.

            This office has advised in a prior opinion, dated April 27, 1950, addressed to Brigadier General Stevens, Adjutant General of the Washington State National Guard [[Opinion No. 49-51-263]], that state membership dues in the National Guard Association may be paid if, in the opinion of the Adjutant General, a service is rendered by such association.

            It follows, therefore, that the state membership fee in this organization may be paid with state funds, if such payment falls within the terms and limits of the appropriations.

            In chapter 288, Laws of 1953, at page 775, the legislature has appropriated from the General Fund the following sums for the commissioner of public lands:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Salaries, Wages, and Plotting
  !ttState‑owned Land into Home
            Sites and Construction of
            Roadways therein !tr $434,815.00
           !tp1"Operations !tr187,500.00
            "Total!tr$622,315.00"

            Since none of the appropriations under the heading of "Salaries and Wages, etc." may be used for paying membership dues, these dues may be paid only if the expenditure comes within the definition of "Operations" as set out in section 1, chapter 288, Laws of 1953, which reads as follows:

            "The word 'operations,' whenever used in this act, shall mean and include necessary traveling expenses of officers and employees, and all expenses necessary for housing costs, supplies, material, services and maintenance of the various institutions, departments and offices of the state government, other than salaries and wages:  * * *"

            It is our opinion that if membership in the Western States Land Commissioners' Association provides any service for the State of Washington, such as furnishing a source of information useful to the public lands department, membership in such association may come within the definition of "Services," and can legally be paid from the appropriations for the commissioner of public lands' operations.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

PHYLLIS DOLVIN
Assistant Attorney General

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