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AGLO 1976 No. 16 - February 25, 1976
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington


A mayor who has been appointed to a county transportation authority under RCW 36.57.030(3) or (4) may continue to serve on the authority so long as he remains a qualified mayor.

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                                                                February 25, 1976

Honorable Curtis M. Janhunen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grays Harbor County
P.O. Box 550
Montesano, Washington 98563                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1976 No. 16

Attention:  Mr. Dennis R. Colwell
            Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on the following question:

            "What is the term of membership of mayors appointed to a county wide transportation authority pursuant to RCW 36.57.030(3) and (4)?"

            We answer this question in the manner set forth below.


            Chapter 36.57 RCW, which codifies chapter 167, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., authorizes any county except one in which the function is being performed by a metropolitan municipal corporation to provide a public transportation system.  In order to do so the county must first establish an agency known as a county transportation authority which, in the words of RCW 36.57.030, is to be composed as follows:

            "(1) The elected officials of the county legislative body, not to exceed three such elected officials;

            "(2) The mayor of the most populous city within the county;

            "(3) The mayor of a city with a population less than five thousand, to be selected by the mayors of all such cities within the county;

            "(4) The mayor of a city with a population greater than five thousand, excluding  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] the most populous city, to be selected by the mayors of all such cities within the county:  Provided,however, That if there is no city with a population greater than five thousand, excluding the most populous city, then the sixth member who shall be an elected official, shall be selected by the other two mayors selected pursuant to subsections (2) and (3) of this section."

            Thus, to begin with, a typical county transportation authority will be composed of the three elected commissioners of the county.1/   In addition, under subsection (2) the mayor of the most populous city within the county will automatically be a member of the authority; for example, in the case of Grays Harbor county, the mayor of Aberdeen.  Your question, however, involves the fifth and sixth positions on the authority which are provided for in subsections (3) and (4) of RCW 36.57.030,supra.

            We are in full agreement with you that, as in the case of a mayor serving under subsection (2), the mayor of a smaller city may only serve on a county transportation authority so long as he remains the mayor of that city.  In other words, if he ceases to be the mayor for any reason, he will no longer possess an expressly stated qualification for service on such an authority.  Accord, the reasoning of AGO 61-62 No. 121 [[to Clayton Anderson, Director, State Parks and Recreation on April 23, 1962]], copy enclosed, with regard to membership on the state parks and recreation commission.  But can the mayor of a smaller city who has been selected to serve on a county transportation authority under RCW 36.57.030(3) or (4) be removed from that agency at the pleasure of the mayors who selected him, prior to the completion of his tenure as a mayor?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            This, unfortunately, is not a question for which there is any clear answer under the present terms of the subject statute.  Compare, RCW 35.58.140, relating to membership on the governing council of a metropolitan municipal corporation, which expressly declares that certain of the ex officio members of that council ". . . shall hold office at the pleasure of the body which selected . . . " them while others, also serving ex officio, are to remain on the council until they cease to hold the other office on the basis of which they were selected.

            Undoubtedly, clarifying legislation patterned after RCW 35.58.140 would also be desirable in the case of a county transporation authority operating under chapter 36.57 RCW.  In the absence of same, however, while acknowledging the possibility of arguments to the contrary, our opinion on the question of removal is as follows:

            The power vested in the mayors of the various smaller cities of a county by RCW 36.57.030(3) and (4) is exclusively that of selecting one of their member to serve on a county transportation authority.  However, that power, once exercised, must be deemed to have been exhausted and there is, under the statute as it now reads, no correlative power of removal.  Furthermore, the power to select may only be exercised when there is a vacancy which is to be filled under RCW 36.57.030(3) or (4).  Therefore, without a vacancy resulting from the death, resignation or disqualification (as above discussed) of an incumbent mayor serving under RCW 36.57.030(3) or (4), the mayors of the various smaller cities having the power of selection under those subsections of the statute may not act to replace that previously selected mayor with another one.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, RCW 36.32.010.   The only county in which a larger governing or legislative body presently exists is, of course, King county under its constitutionally formulated home rule charter.  That county, however, is also one in which a metropolitan municipal corporation is currently performing the function of public transportation, and hence, under the terms of RCW 36.57.020, the statutory authority granted to counties by chapter 36.57 RCW to perform public transportation functions is there inapplicable.

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