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AGO 1952 No. 414 - October 08, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


The omission in the proposed King County Freeholders' Charter of mention of veterans' preference would not prevent the state veterans' preference statute from being applicable.

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                                                                  October 8, 1952 

Senator Victor Zednick
1611 Sixth Avenue West
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 414

 Dear Sir:

             Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of September 30, 1952, in which you ask our opinion as to whether, under the proposed King County Freeholders' Charter which makes no reference to veterans' preference in public employment, such preference would have to be given pursuant to chapter 189, Laws of 1945.

             It is our opinion that veterans' preference will have to be given under the proposed King County Freeholders' Charter if it is adopted notwithstanding that no reference is made to veterans' preference in the charter.


             Amendment 21 to the State Constitution, which is the authority under which a county can adopt a home rule charter, provides in the second paragraph:

             "Any county may frame a 'Home Rule' charter for its own government subject to the constitution and laws of this state, * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)

            This constitutional amendment does not make any provision for superseding state statutes, but on the contrary, specifically requires that the charter shall operate in accordance with the constitution and the laws of the state.  The  Orig. Op. Page 2 constitutional amendment permits extensive changes in the form of the county's government and in certain specific respects does change the effect of some statutes.  However, there is nothing in the constitutional amendment which would, in our opinion, authorize a suspension of the statutory requirement for veterans' preference.

             Our Supreme Court has recognized the applicability of general state laws to municipalities under charter government.  In the case ofState ex rel. Webster v. Superior Court, 67 Wash. 37, 120 Pac. 861, our Supreme Court said:

             "* * * The phrase 'subject to general laws,' has been held to be a reservation of a general legislative power in the state, and under it many laws have been passed and many decisions pronounced holding that it was the policy of the state constitution that freeholders' charters and amendments thereto shall always be subject to the control of general laws.  * * *"

             RCW 41.04.010 (§ 1, chapter 189, Laws of 1945, as last amended by § 1, chapter 134, Laws of 1949; RRS § 9963-5) provides:

             "In all competitive examinations, unless otherwise provided herein, to determine the qualifications of applicants for public offices, positions or employment, the state, and all of its political subdivisions and all municipal corporations, shall give a preference status to all veterans, as herein defined, of all wars in which the United States of America has been, now is or may hereafter be engaged, by adding to the mark, grade or rating, based upon a possible rating of one hundred points as perfect, ten percent to his final earned test rating:  Provided, That he has received a minimum passing grade in such examination.

             "The term 'veteran' as herein used, includes every person who has served, now is serving, or may hereafter serve in any branch of the armed forces of the United States during any such war and, upon termination of the service, has received an honorable  Orig. Op. Page 3 discharge, or a physical discharge with an honorable record, or has been relieved of active service under honorable circumstances.

             "The provisions of this section shall not be applicable to promotional examinations to determine the qualifications of officers or employees for promotion from a lower grade position to a higher grade position:  Provided, That when such a veteran was employed in public service at the time of his entry into military service and returns to the same employment, he shall be entitled to the preference herein provided for on his first promotional examination."

             This is a general statute of the state applicable to all political subdivisions and municipal corporations.  There is nothing in the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution which would authorize a county, by its charter, to escape the provisions of this section, even designedly.  The proposed King County Freeholders' Charter, by simply not mentioning veterans' preference, could not, in our opinion, prevent the application of this statute.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General

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