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AGO 1952 No. 259 - March 14, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

SHERIFFS' CARS ‑- TRADE‑IN FOR NEW VEHICLES ‑- NECESSITY FOR BIDS.

Section 1, chapter 254, Laws of 1945, excludes from the requirement of public hearings and bids the disposal and purchase of county personal property in the possession of the sheriff and not within the jurisdiction of the county commissioners.

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                                                                   March 14, 1952 

Honorable Ralph G. Swanson
Prosecuting Attorney
Thurston County
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 259

 Dear Sir:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request of February 21, 1952, for an opinion of this office on the following question, namely whether or not, in view of the provisions and inferences to be drawn from section 6, chapter 254, Laws of 1945, it is necessary to call for bids on the purchase of new vehicles for the sheriff's department, and our conclusions may be stated as follows:

             Section 1, chapter 254, Laws of 1945, excludes from the requirement of public hearings and bids the disposal and purchase of county personal property in the possession of the sheriff and not within the jurisdiction of the county commissioners.

                                                                    ANALYSIS

             Prior to the enactment of chapter 254, Laws of 1945 (§§ 4014-1 et seq. Rem. Supp. 1945) the provisions of the law provided for the disposal of county property and required publication of intention, public hearings, and bids therefor in first class counties.  This office, for many years, has recognized, at least in relation to sheriffs' cars, that the established custom throughout the state is for the sheriffs to turn in their automobiles on purchases of new vehicles when the older cars no longer meet the rigid requirements of law enforcement vehicles.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Chapter 254, Laws of 1945, recognizes in the law for the first time, that county property may be disposed of without the formalities of public hearings and especially excepts from the operation of the act disposal of property by trading it in upon the purchase of a like article.  This chapter is primarily and basically to provide for disposal of such property rather than to provide for methods of purchasing new equipment and, in fact, both its heading and title relate only to disposal of county property.

             This act in its final form as enacted by the legislature is, indeed, an unfortunate, garbled and ambiguous piece of legislation.  It was not without considerable study that we have made our interpretation and reached the conclusion stated.  Said conclusion is based partly upon the fact that nowhere does said act reveal that the established policy earlier referred to relative to sheriffs' cars was intended to be no longer in effect.

            In an attempt to give this amendment to earlier law meaning and purpose it has been closely scrutinized and it is our opinion that section 1, which appears to contain no verb for the first part thereof, is definitive and excluding; hence, unless the property to be disposed of is within the direct jurisdiction of the county commissioners or belongs to a taxing division, RCW 36.34.060 and 36.34.070 do not apply, and where the facts further fall within the exclusions contained in the first section, namely RCW 36.34.020, the board of county commissioners is not to give notice, call a public hearing or require bids.

             Admittedly, road district equipment and highway equipment of a county are within the direct jurisdiction of the county commissioners.  Such is not the case with property of the county sheriff which, by statute, is placed directly in his possession and it is his responsibility to account therefor.  Since the sheriffs' cars are not within the direct jurisdiction of the county commissioners and are not the property of any taxing division subject to the jurisdiction of the board, and the sheriff further desires to trade said car or cars in to be replaced by new cars, the provisions of chapter 254, Laws of 1945, requiring public hearings and bids do not apply.

 Very truly yours,
SMITH TROY
Attorney General 

PHILIP W. RICHARDSON
Assistant Attorney General

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