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AGO 1950 No. 393 - November 17, 1950
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

P.U.D. ‑- CHANGING BOUNDARIES ‑- ELECTIONS

The county commissioners by changing their district boundaries did not ipso facto effect a corresponding change in the P.U.D. commissioner district boundaries, and a candidate who before the change by the county commissioners did not reside within the P.U.D. commissioner district in question, did not become a resident thereof or eligible to hold the office therein by reason of the action by the county commissioners.

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                                                               November 17, 1950

Honorable Henry A. Brown
Representative, 23rd District
Route 2, Box 260
Poulsbo, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 393

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of November 9, 1950, you requested our opinion concerning the eligibility of a certain candidate to hold the office of P.U.D. commissioner.

            The facts as outlined in your letter and amplified by our conference are as follows:

            In 1938 a P.U.D. was organized in Kitsap County on a county-wide basis with the P.U.D. commissioner district boundaries coinciding with the county commissioners district boundaries.  Within the past year, the Kitsap County commissioners changed the boundaries of one of their commissioner districts; but the P.U.D. commissioners have taken no action to change their commissioner district boundaries so as to coincide with the new county commissioner district boundaries.  In the November general election, a candidate who does not reside within the boundaries maintained by the P.U.D. commissioner district in question, was elected as the P.U.D. commissioner for that district.  However, if the P.U.D. commissioner district boundary in question was changed because of the action by the county commissioners, then the candidate in question would be a resident of the P.U.D. commissioner district that elected him.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Your inquiry, specifically, is whether this candidate is eligible to hold the office of P.U.D. commissioner from the commissioner district in question.

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            The county commissioners by changing their district boundaries did not ipso facto effect a corresponding change in the P.U.D. commissioner district boundaries, and a candidate who before the change by the county commissioners did not reside within the P.U.D. commissioner district in question, did not become a resident thereof or eligible to hold the office therein by reason of the action by the county commissioners.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Public utility districts may be organized either on a county-wide basis, or covering an area less than county-wide. Section 3, page 4, Laws of 1931 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 11607).  In either case, the P.U.D. powers are exercised through a commission composed of three members.  When the P.U.D. is county-wide, the three commission members are elected, one from each of the three county commissioner districts.  When the P.U.D. is less than county-wide, the district is divided into three equal commissioner districts of approximately equal population.  Section 4, chapter 245, Am. L. 1941 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 11608).

            At the outset it is to be noted that the P.U.D. act does not provide that in a county-wide P.U.D. that the commissioner district boundaries must coincide with the county commissioners district boundaries.  Section 11608 (Am. L. 1941) provides in part:

            "The powers of the public utility district shall be exercised through a commission consisting of three members, one from each of the three county commissioner districts of the county in which the public utility district is located, when the public utility district is coextensive with the limits of such county."

            Once a P.U.D. is organized, it becomes a municipal corporation in its own right,Rem. Rev. Stat. 11610.  As a separate political subdivision it is not subservient to the powers of the county commissioners.  Thus, the power to alter the boundaries of its commissioner districts is vested in the P.U.D. commission alone.  In the last paragraph of section 11608, it is provided:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "The boundaries of the Commissioners' districts shall not be changed oftener than once in four (4) years, and only when all members of the Commission are present:  PROVIDED, That any proposed change therein must be made by resolution and notice of the time of a public hearing thereon shall be published for two (2) weeks prior thereto: AND PROVIDED FURTHER, That upon a referendum petition signed by six per cent (6%) of the qualified voters of the public utility district being filed with the Clerk, the Commission shall submit such proposed change to the voters of the public utility district for their approval or rejection.  The checking of said petition as to its sufficiency or insufficiency shall be governed by the provisions in this act relating thereto."

            Thus, since the P.U.D. commissioners have not by resolution changed their district boundaries, the question becomes whether a change in the county commissioners district boundaries ipso facto effects a corresponding change in the P.U.D. commissioner district boundaries.  We think not.  As noted above, there is nothing in the P.U.D. act that compels an organized P.U.D to maintain its commissioner district boundaries so as to coincide with the county commissioner district boundaries.  Nor, does this act grant to the county commissioners the power to change a P.U.D. commissioner district boundary.  Consequently, if the county commissioners have no power to change P.U.D. commissioner district boundaries by direct action, it cannot be said that they can effect a change indirectly by altering their own commissioner district boundaries.

            In conclusion, then, it is our opinion that until the P.U.D. commissioners by resolution as provided in section 11608, supra, have decided to change the boundaries of their commissioner districts, they remain the same notwithstanding action by the county commissioners; and a candidate who did not reside within the particular P.U.D. commissioner district before the change by the county commissioners, did not become a resident of the P.U.D. commissioner district in question or eligible to hold the office therein by reason of the action by the county commissioners.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Before concluding our discussion herein, we would like to point out that section 11608 (Am. L. 1941 requires three years' residence in the P.U.D. commissioner district as a condition of eligibility.  Though we are not deciding the question herein on this ground, it would seem that a person who until the recent action of the county commissioners did not reside in the P.U.D. commissioner district in question, could not have satisfied this residence requirement.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

ROBERT L. SIMPSON
Assistant Attorney General

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