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AGO 1953 No. 140 - October 01, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


 No power has been granted which permits a county to contract with a safety council to supply the council's services to said county. 

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                                                                 October 1, 1953 

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County City Building
Seattle, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 140 

Dear Sir: 

            We have received your request of September 1, 1953, for the opinion of this office upon the question of whether or not the commissioners of King county may pay to the Seattle‑King County Safety Council the sum of $1,000 to be used in accordance with an agreement submitted by the Seattle‑King County Safety Council and Dale Evans, county road engineer.  The contract relates that, in consideration of $1,000 to be paid by the county, the safety council will assist civic organizations in developing safety programs by providing speakers, literature and films; it will assist in the organization of local community safety councils; and it will aid the county in conducting public information programs.  Although the proposition is meritorious and commendable, we are unable to find any authority in the statutes for the expenditure of the sum of $1,000 or any other sum by the King County Commissioners for the purposes outlined. 


            The statutes examined in reaching the foregoing conclusion are RCW 36.01.010 which reads, in part, as follows 

            "The several counties in this state shall have capacity . . . to make such contracts, . . . as may be necessary to their corporate or administrative powers, . . ." 

            and RCW 36.32.120, which reads, in part: 

            "The several boards of county commissioners shall:

            "* * * 

            "(6) Have the care of the county property and the management of the county funds and business and in the name of the county prosecute and defend all actions for and against the county, and such other powers as are or may be conferred by law;

            "(7) Make and enforce, by appropriate resolutions or ordinances, all such police and sanitary regulations as are not in conflict with state law, and provide that any violation of such regulations, ordinances, or resolutions shall constitute a misdemeanor: . . ." 

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We find no express or implied authority in the statutes quoted above which would allow the county commissioners to contract with and apply to the Seattle‑King County Safety Council monies in the support of their program.  The authority of a county, acting through its commissioners, to make contracts is strictly limited to that conferred, either expressly or impliedly, by statute, regardless of the benefit to the county, and any doubt existing as to a county's power to contract is ordinarily resolved against that power.  RCW 36.32.120 (7) grants only the power to "make and enforce" police and sanitary regulations.  This provision, we believe, does not permit the implication of a power to contract with a private agency to aid in conducting a safety compaign.  We can find no other power, either administrative or corporate, granted to a county, which would make it "necessary" to imply a power to contract as required by this case. 

            Your letter has also raised the further possibility of a campaign being conducted by the sheriff of King county and/or the King county engineer.  In this regard, we do not feel that the sheriff has the authority to include such an item in his budget as submitted to the county commissioners and there is no authority to allow the King county engineer to use such monies from the road fund. 

            We have found no Washington cases in point and have, therefore, interpreted the statutes in their strictest form. 

Very truly yours, 

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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