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AGO 1951 No. 010 - April 11, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

LOYALTY AFFIDAVITS AS A CONDITION TO THE ISSUANCE OF WARRANTS FOR PUBLIC ASSISTANCE.

The State Auditor is not required to obtain loyalty affidavits before issuance of warrants for the payment of public assistance grants under Substitute House Bill No. 1 of the Extraordinary Session of the Thirty-second Legislature, but may do so as a matter of protection to themselves from any charge of malfeasance.

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                                                                   April 11, 1951

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Olympia, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 10

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your verbal request for our opinion as to whether you will be required, by Substitute House Bill No. 1 of the Extraordinary Session of 1951 prior to the issuance of warrants for the payment of public assistance grants, to obtain affidavits to the effect that payees do not believe in, or are members of organizations which believe in, or teach, the overthrow of the government of the United States by force or violence.

            It is our opinion that you are not required by law to obtain such affidavits prior to issuing warrants, but that payments of grants to persons who believe in, or advocate, the overthrow of the government by force or violence are illegal and your liability is the same as that for any other illegal payment.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The General Appropriation Act, passed by the Extraordinary Session of the Thirty-second Legislature, Substitute House Bill No. 1, contains the following proviso:

            "Provided, That no part of any appropriation contained in this act shall be used to pay the salary, wages, or grant of any person who believes  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] in or who is a member of or who supports any organization that believes in or teaches the overthrow of the United States government by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods:  Provided further, That no part of any appropriation contained in this act shall be used to pay the salary, wages, or grant of any person while engaged in strike against the state of Washington, or any office, department or agency thereof, or against any political subdivision of the state:  Provided further, That for the purposes hereof an affidavit filed with the state auditor by the payee prior to the issuance of any warrant, or in lieu thereof a certificate by the responsible officer certifying that the payee or payees for whom vouchers or payrolls are submitted have filed with such officer such affidavit, shall be prima facie evidence that the person making it, or filing the same with the responsible officer, has not acted contrary to the provisions herein set forth:  And provided further, That any person who believes in or who is a member of or who supports any organization that believes in or teaches the overthrow of the United States government by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional methods and accepts employment, the salary, wages, or grant, for which is paid from any appropriation contained in this act, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one (1) year or both."

            This proviso is similar to provisos that have occurred in previous general appropriations acts, except that the word "grant" is included, in addition to "salary" and "wages," thereby making the proviso applicable to public assistance payments, since that is the term under which payments under the Public Assistance Acts are identified.  See section 5, chapter 6, Laws of 1949, as amended by section 6, Initiative No. 178.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            There is no positive requirement in the proviso in Substitute House Bill No. 1, that you obtain affidavits from persons who are about to receive warrants.  The requirements is only that if affidavits are so obtained, they shall be prima facie evidence that the persons making them have not acted contrary to the provisions therein set out.

            In the case ofState v. Howard, 91 Wash. 481, 158 Pac. 104, our Supreme Court adopted the definition of "affidavit" from Black, Law Dictionary as follows:

            "'Affidavit.  A written or printed declaration or statements of facts, made voluntarily, and confirmed by the oath or affirmation of the party making it, taken before an officer having authority to administer such oath.'"

            Thus, to comply with this provision of the act the declaration must be sworn to before an officer authorized to administer oaths, such as a Notary Public.

            This proviso is similar to the requirement contained in chapter 287 of the Laws of 1947, which was the first Appropriation Bill in which a condition appeared similar to that now under discussion.

            In an opinion to you dated April 1, 1947, we advised that you might act upon the presumption that every person should be presumed to obey the law, but that the affidavit should be a protection to you from any charge of malfeasance, unless you have affirmative knowledge that the affidavit is not correct, and that your responsibility for payments made to persons not conforming to the requirements of this statute is the same as in any case where an illegal payment is made.  For your convenience, we enclose a copy of our previous opinion.

            What we said there is applicable to payments of grants under Substitute House Bill No. 1.

            To summarize, you are not required by law to obtain affidavits prior to the issuance of warrants, but you may presume that all persons will obey the law unless you have evidence to the contrary, but you may require affidavits as a matter of protection to yourself from any charge of malfeasance.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Such affidavits, if obtained, are only prima facie evidence of eligibility of the person to receive payment.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LYLE L. IVERSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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