COUNTY INDIGENT VETERANS' FUNDS -- AUTHORITY OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO DISALLOW CLAIMS.
Within tax and budget limits, county commissioners may disallow claims upon the county indigent veterans' fund when in their discretion the claimant is not indigent, despite approval of the claim by a proper officer of the veterans' organization.
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April 4, 1951
Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Prosecutor, Spokane County
Spokane, Washington Cite as: AGO 51-53 No. 6
Attention: Earl W. Foster, Deputy Prosecutor
You request our opinion upon:
"What authority has the Board of County Commissioners to disallow claims on the county indigent veterans' funds where such claims are approved by proper officers of veterans' organizations."
We conclude that:
The county commissioners may disallow such claim where in the exercise of a sound discretion, the claimant is not indigent.
For the relief of certain indigent veterans, the Boards of County Commissioners by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10737 (1947 Supp.),
"* * * shall provide such sum or sums of money as may be necessary, * * *"
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
to be drawn upon by certain officers of nationally chartered veterans' organizations. Their orders
"* * * shall be the proper voucher for the expenditure of said sum or sums of money."
The fund is supported by a county tax levied under Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10742 (1945 Supp.).
The quoted language above of the 1947 amendment is identical with the language Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10737 of the Laws of 1921, also with § 1, Ch. 83, Laws of 1919. (The original act, Laws of 1887-88, p. 208 contained "may" rather than "shall" provide).
Our previous opinions (January 16, 1923; affirmed by our opinion of February 2, 1924 [See 1923-1924 Ops. Atty. Gen. 207], and reaffirmed May 6, 1930) concluded that
"* * * the county commissioners, in the final analysis, are charged with the responsibility of making disbursements for relief under the act, we think the duty of determining whether a person applying for aid is an indigent * * * devolved upon the commissioners, * * *."
Indigency was concluded to be a "question of fact" "within the sound discretion of the commissioners." Officers of the veterans' organizations are
"* * * merely acting as the representatives of the county commissioners."
We are informed that the above has been the general practice for some years and the legislature must be presumed to have known and approved thereof.
We adhere to our previous opinions that the county commissioners may disallow properly signed and presented claims within the limits of their budget when in the exercise of a sound discretion they find that the claimant is not indigent.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Proper use of discretion, however, does not permit an arbitrary or unreasonable refusal. Abuses of discretion would appear appealable under Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4076 (P.P.C. § 480-43).
We enclose copies of our previous opinions for your perusal.
Very truly yours,
JENNINGS P. FELIX
Assistant Attorney General