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AGO 1952 No. 283 - April 09, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


A member of the board of a first class school district may not act by proxy or in absentia, but must be personally present at a board meeting in order to participate in the proceedings of the board.

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                                                                    April 9, 1952 

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 283

 Dear Sir:

             By letter of March 31, 1952, with reference to a meeting of the Richland School Board held March 24, 1952, you advise that a member of the board who was not personally in attendance at the meeting transmitted to the secretary a written statement to the effect that such absent member desired to second and vote for a motion on a particular subject in the event that it came before the meeting.  You further state that this written statement was accepted by the chairman as a second to the motion and as a "proxy" vote for the same.  You request our opinion as follows:

             "We would like to have an opinion as to the legality of voting by proxy and as to whether a motion may be seconded by proxy at a first class school district's Board of Directors' meeting."

             It is our conclusion that:

             A member of the board of a first class school district may not act by proxy or in absentia, but must be personally present at a board meeting in order to participate in the proceedings of the board.


              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]                                                                        

            Your inquiry refers to the action of a member of the board by "proxy," which, in its strict sense involves a delegation of authority to another person.  It appears to be well settled that a member of a school board may not delegate his discretionary powers.  56 C.J. 335, Schools and School Districts, § 206; McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3d Ed.), § 46.07.                                                                         

            On the basis of the factual situation presented in your inquiry, we understand your question as relating to the power of a board member to participate in absentia in the proceedings of the board.

             An examination of the statutory provisions relating to meetings of the boards of directors of first class districts shows that RCW 28.62.090 (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4798), provides that "All meetings shall be open to the public unless otherwise specially ordered."  RCW 28.62.130 (as derived from Rem. Rev. Stat § 4802), provides that:

             "A majority of all members of the board of directors shall constitute a quorum, but a less number in attendance at any regular meeting may compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as the board may see fit to prescribe.  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied.)

             And RCW 28.62.140 (as derived from Rem. Rev. Stat. 4802),

             "The absence of any member from four consecutive regular meetings of the board, unless on account of sickness or by resolution of the board, shall vacate his position in the board, which fact shall be passed upon by the board of directors and spread upon their records."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             These statutory provisions, we believe, contemplate that the meeting of the board of directors shall be one at which the members are convened and in personal attendance.  The general rule has been stated as follows:

             "It is an elementary principle that when several persons are authorized to do an act of a public nature which requires deliberation, they all should be convened, because the advice and opinions of all may be useful, although all do not unite in opinion.  Therefore, matters requiring the action of a school board must be considered at a meeting  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] properly held.  The action of individual members of the board in signing a resolution while not in session as a board is not the action of the board.  An informal action or agreement without a regular meeting is invalid and will not bind the district.  * * * " 47 Am.Jur. 321, Schools, § 38.

             After stating the general rule, our Supreme Court in the case of Behrens v. Bechtel, 131 Wash. 508, 230 Pac. 426, said:

             "So here, although each of the two hundred electors of this district may have exercised his judgment in his individual capacity, he did not meet with the other electors of the district in a deliberative legislative body.  The purpose of the statute was, therefore not complied with.  These are matters of substance, not merely irregularities."

             Although the Behrens case involved the statutory provisions covering special meetings of the electors of a school district, the same principle should apply to the deliberative meetings of the members of a school board.  In the case ofMcBee v. School District No. 48 of Clackamas County, 163 Ore. 121, 96 P. (2d) 207, it was held that the members of a school board must act as a board and that their legislative and discretionary powers can only be exercised by the coming together of the members who compose the board.  And see McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3d Ed.) § 46.07; Beers v. Lasher, 209 Iowa 1158, 229 N.W. 821.

             We are therefore of the opinion that a member of the board of directors of a first class school district must be personally present in order to participate in the proceedings of a meeting of such a board, and that the written statement transmitted by the absent member to the meeting of the Richland School Board held March 24, 1952, was ineffective for any purpose in connection with the action of the board taken at that meeting.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General

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