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AGO 1952 No. 368 - August 08, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington


The State Fair Fund may be prorated by the Fair Commission and, in the absence of a showing of an abuse of administrative discretion, such administrative action must be deemed proper.

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                                                                  August 8, 1952

Honorable John R. Jones
State Representative
First District
Waterville, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 368

Dear Sir:

            This is in response to your request for an opinion on three questions relating to the distribution made by the State Fair Commission of the State Fair Fund.  You state your questions as follows:

            "I am asking your office for an opinion as to why North Central Washington District Fair only received $4,500.00 when other Class A Fairs received as high as $9,000.00 and $8,000.00 of State Funds.

            "In Sec. 8 the Law says: That the Director of Agriculture with the advice of the Commission shall set up rules and regulations by which this money is pro rated.  Does this Section that I have quoted in Sec. 8 change the meaning in Sec. 6 where it states that 35% of the money shall be pro rated to all Class A Fairs.

            "As State Representative I am asking your office for an opinion as to whether the Fair Commission has pro rated this money according to law."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Answering your inquiries directly in the order in which you state them, we find that the reason the various Class A Fairs received different amounts of money results from the opinion of the Fair Commission that the Statute by requiring a pro rating of the funds did not contemplate a mere division among the fairs with each fair receiving a like amount.  It was the opinion of the Fair Commission that pro rating [[prorating]]contemplated a system whereby credence would be given to numerous factors; for example, attendance, number of junior exhibitors, number of exhibitors, amount of resources (both material and community efforts) which are extended to conduct the various fairs, and other matters of like significance.

            Answering your second question, it would not seem that the language you referred to in section 8 would in itself change the meaning of the language you referred to in section 6; however, it does indicate the broad authority placed in the administrative board, i.e., the Fair Commission, to consider various criteria in establishing a system of pro rating [[prorating]], rather than a mere division in which each fair would receive a like amount of money.

            Answering your third question, we can only say that it appears from the records of the Fair Commission that the fund has been pro rated [[prorated]]according to law, and that in the absence of a showing that there was an abuse of administrative discretion by a failure to apply the various criteria in a uniform manner that the administrative action was in accordance with law.


            From an examination of the administrative proceedings of the Commission as recorded in their minutes, we find that very shortly after the new law went into effect in June 1951 the Fair Commission, which was created by the 1951 statute, began holding meetings, and the minutes of these meetings indicate that the Commission's administrative interpretation of the language you quote was that it meant not merely dividing up the money available according to the number of fairs participating, but that various factors were to be considered in evaluating the fairs; for example, attendance, number of exhibits, and other criteria.  In the minutes of the very first meeting of July 10, 1951, it is said "Considerable time was spent in considering 'factors to be considered in evaluating fairs.'  Each member is to make deletions, additions and suggestions and bring to the next meeting of the State Fairs Commission."  And the minutes of the meeting held a few months thereafter, November 5, 1951, contain the following statement:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Sec. 6 of the Fair Laws was then discussed with the conclusion being reached that the amount paid to each class show were not to be the same, the amounts paid to depend upon the number in attendance, the gate receipts, and the amount of work shown in each show, this work given by both the exhibitors and the community volunteer workers."

            Accordingly, thereafter a system was agreed upon by the Commission for allocation in which various factors were given emphasis.  Some of these factors were attendance, premiums, income, expenses, number of exhibitors, number of adult exhibitors, junior exhibitors, and the amount of resources‑-both material and community effort‑-which were expended to conduct the various fairs.

            As a result of this different method of allocation, the North Central Washington District Fair did receive approximately $3,500 less than had been received under the previous statute, while others received greater amounts than they formerly enjoyed.  It is realized that inasmuch as the term "pro rata" was used in the statute prior to 1951 and the distribution was simply according to the number of fairs in equal amount, that this former administrative action is entitled to some significance, and arguably it might be said that the legislature has acquiesced in such a system; however, it would seem difficult to criticize the Commission in so far as its administrative interpretation of the meaning and significance to be attached to the term "pro rata" is concerned.  For example, the term "pro rata" is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as:

            "Proportionately; according to a certain rate, percentage, or proportion.  According to measure, interest or liability.  Chaplin v. Griffin, 252 Pa. 271, 97 A. 409 [[97 Atl. 409]], 411, Ann. Cas. 1918C, 787.  According to a certain rule or proportion.  19 Am. L. Reg. N.S. 355, n. (U.S. D.C. Cal.)."

            It should also be noted that if the legislature had simply meant that the amount available to Class A Fairs was to be divided among the Class A Fairs it could have said so in language to that effect, e.g., "35% of the amount of such funds to bedivided among the Class A Fairs" rather than as was stated "35% of the amount of such funds to be paid pro rata to Class A Fairs."  Also significant  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] is the language that you refer to in section 8 in regard to rules and regulations, which in itself indicates that it is not merely to be divided up.  Further indicative of an allocation system in which each fair will not receive the same amount is the language in section 6:

            "And Class A, B or C Fairs before being able to qualify and participate in any allocation herein provided must be able to match the amount of such allocation from its own local fair resources, derived either from general admission or otherwise."

            Accordingly, in the absence of a showing that the pro rating [[prorating]]was done without regard to a rather uniform application of principles upon which the pro rata shares were determined, it would seem that the Fair Commission pro rated [[prorated]]the fund according to law.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

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