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AGO 1952 No. 428 - November 20, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

EMPLOYING PERSONNEL AND SETTING SALARIES FOR HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES.

The Washington State Highway Commission is not subject to section 15, chapter 7, Laws of 1921 (Administrative Board) in the matter of employment of personnel or in setting their salaries.

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                                                               November 20, 1952 

Washington State Highway Commission
Transportation Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                             Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 428

 Gentlemen:

             In your letter of November 13, 1952, you request an opinion as to whether the Washington State Highway Commission in employing personnel and setting salaries are governed by section 15, chapter 7 of the Laws of 1921.

             It is our conclusion that section 15, chapter 7, Laws of 1921, does not apply.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             The preamble to the law creating the State Highway Commission, or section 1 of chapter 247, Laws of 1951, reads as follows:

             "The administration of highway affairs has become a matter of major public importance involving vast sums of money, the development of commerce and resources, the employment of great numbers of persons, the promotion of recreation and the welfare of every citizen of the state.  It demands the highest order of business and technical administration, accompanied by continuity of sound longrange  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] highway policies, freedom from political interference and changes of personnel, and an organization attracting the services of qualified talented administrators and meriting the confidence of the people."

             Section 4 of chapter 247, Laws of 1951 (RCW 43.27.100), sets forth the powers of said Highway Commission, as follows:

             "The state highway commission is hereby vested with all powers, authority, functions and duties now vested in or required to be performed by the director of highways or the state department of highways.  Full and complete jurisdiction and authority over the administration of state highways and all matters connected therewith or related thereto is hereby granted the said state highway commission * * *."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             Section 7 of chapter 247, Laws of 1951 (RCW 43.27.110), reads as follows:

             "On and after July 1, 1951, the state highway commission shall take over, assume and exercise all of the powers, authority and functions and perform all of the duties now vested in or required to be performed by the director of highways and the department of highways.  Thereafter the state highway commission shall assume and exercise full and complete jurisdiction and authority over the administration of the state highways and all matters connected therewith or related thereto as hereinabove set forth in section 4 of this act.  The state highway commission shall establish such rules and regulations as may be deemed wise and lay down policies of procedure and generally supervise and control the operation of said functions within the terms of this act and pursuant to the laws of this state, and the said commission is hereby clothed with all necessary powers to carry out the terms of this act."  (Emphasis supplied.)

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is quite apparent, therefore, that it was the intention of the Legislature to remove the Department of Highways from all political influence or control, placing the entire operation of the Highway Department in the hands of the Washington State Highway Commission.  In order to accomplish this, it would be both necessary and proper that the Highway Commission should employ all personnel and set all salaries, free from any outside influence.

             By vesting complete control of the Highway Department in the new Highway Commission, section 3 of chapter 53, Laws of 1937 (RCW 43.27.020) gives to the Commission, among other things, the following powers and duties:

             "The director of highways shall:

             "(1) Conduct, control and supervise the department of highways, and designate and establish such department of highway district or branch offices as may be necessary and convenient, and appoint and employ and determine the powers and duties, together with the salaries and other expenses of such engineering, clerical, mechanical, and other assistants, as may be necessary or convenient in the exercise of his powers and in the discharge of his duties;

             "* * *

             "(7) Devise and place in operation in the department of highways a practical and workable merit system for the rating of employees which shall be followed as closely as possible in the classification of employees, setting of wages and the determination of eligibility for promotion, to effect the most efficient and economical conduct of the department; * * *"

             It is our opinion that the law creating the Highway Commission removed it from administrative control by the Governor of the Administrative Board, and, together with section 3 of chapter 53 of the Laws of 1937, clearly determines that the Washington State Highway Commission is not subject to section 15 of chapter  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] 7 of the Laws of 1921 (RCW 43.17.090).  Therefore, the matter of employing personnel and setting salaries is exclusively in the Washington State Highway Commission.

 Very truly yours,
SMITH TROY
Attorney General

J. ARNOLD COBLEY
Assistant Attorney General

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