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AGLO 1976 No. 33 - May 12, 1976
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- STATE COMMITTEE ON SALARIES ‑- QUORUM

(1) Since the state committee on salaries consists of a total of seven members the quorum requirement for that agency is the attendance of at least four of those members.

(2) So long as a quorum of the state committee on salaries is present a motion or other proposition may be passed by the concurring votes of a simple majority of the committee members who are, in fact, in attendance at the particular meeting.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 12, 1976

Honorable Warren A. Bishop
Chairman, State Committee on Salaries
Washington State University
Pullman, Washington 99163                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1976 No. 33

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested the opinion of our office on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) How many members of the state committee on salaries must be present at a meeting in order to constitute a quorum so as to enable the committee to function?

            (2) Assuming the presence of a quorum, how many members of the state committee on salaries must concur in voting on a particular motion or other proposition in order for the measure to pass?

            We answer the foregoing questions in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 43.03.028 describes both the composition and the basic functions of the state committee on salaries as follows:

            "There is hereby created a committee to be known as the state committee on salaries, to consist of seven members as follows:  The president of the University of Puget Sound or his nominee; the president of Washington State University or his nominee; the chairman of the State Personnel Board; the president of the Association of Washington Business; the president of the Pacific Northwest Personnel Managers' Association; the president of the Washington State Bar Association, and the president of the Washington State Labor Council or his nominee.  If any of the titles or positions mentioned in this subsection are changed or  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] abolished, any person occupying an equivalent or like position shall be qualified for appointment by the governor to membership upon the committee.

            "(1) The committee herein created shall study the duties and salaries of the directors of the several departments and the members of the several boards and commissions of state government who are subject to appointment by the governor, the director of game, the director of highways, the director of aeronautics, the director of parks and recreation, the director of the veterans' rehabilitation council and the statutory assistant directors of all departments the executive head of which is an individual appointed by the governor, and to recommend to the governor the salaries to be fixed for each respective position.  Such recommendations shall be submitted to the governor in writing at least once in each fiscal biennium on such date as the governor may designate, but not later than seventy-five days prior to the convening of the legislature.

            "(2) The committee shall also make a study of the duties and salaries of all state elective officials, including members of the supreme, appellate, superior, and district courts and of the members of the legislature, and also a study of the duties and salaries of county elective officials, and report to the governor and the legislative council not later than sixty days prior to the convening of each regular session of the legislature and recommend the salaries to be established for each position."

            Nowhere in this statute, or in any other statutory provision relating to the state committee on salaries, however, is there to be found any "special" language dealing with either of your questions.  Therefore, in accordance with the general rule set forth in RCW 4.04.010,1/ both of these questions must be answered in accordance with established commonlaw principles.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Question (1):

            The common-law rule which governs your first question has been cited and applied by this office on numerous occasions.  See, e.g., our letter opinion dated January 20, 1969, to the prosecuting attorney of Grant county (copy enclosed) regarding the requisites of a quorum for a county planning agency operating under chapter 36.70 RCW.  In that opinion, at page 2, we said:

            "The generally understood and recognized rule that a majority of the total number of members of a board or commission is necessary in order to constitute a quorum is a rule which is derived from the common law.  As stated by the supreme court of South Carolina in Gaskins v. Jones, 198 S.C. 508, 18 S.E.2d 454 (1942),

            "'In the absence of any statutory or other controlling provision, the common law rule to the effect that a majority of a whole body is necessary to constitute a quorum applies, and no valid act can be done in the absence of a quorum.  A majority of such a body must be present to constitute a Board competent to transact business. . . .' (18 S.E.2d 454, 456.)

            "In addition to the foregoing, a number of other cases to the same effect may be found in 35A, Words and Phrases, Quorum, at pages 629-636."

            Thus, our answer to your first question is that since the state committee on salaries consists of a total of seven members the quorum requirement for that agency, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, is the attendance of at least four of those members.

            Question (2):

            Likewise, we have had occasion in the past to consider the common-law rule applicable with respect to your second question.  Most recently, in AGO 1976 No. 7 [[to Dr. Ernest H. Campbell, Agent, Municipal Research Council on March 9, 1976]], copy enclosed, we resolved an analogous issue with regard to the town council of a fourth class city under chapter 35.27 RCW.  At pages 4-5 of that opinion, after noting certain special statutory provisions regarding particular municipal ordinances, we said:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            "Conversely, the common-law rule (which, in our state, is applicable in the absence of a statute to the contrary) is to the effect that once a legal quorum of the members of a multimember body has come into existence, action may be taken by that body on the basis of an affirmative vote by a simple majority of the members present.  See, 56 Am.Jur.2d, Municipal Corporations, § 163, and cases cited therein; see, also, 4 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, § 13.31b wherein the following principles are set forth:

            "'Where the law relating to the particular subject does not specify the vote required to do the particular act, a majority vote is sufficient.  In passing resolutions or motions of a temporary or mere ministerial nature a majority of a legal quorum is usually sufficient, but in enacting ordinances or resolutions of a permanent character a majority vote of the constituent members of the body may be required.  If the law governing the body provides that certain acts may be done only by a majority of the members appointed or elected to the body, it is apparent that the acts specified may not be done legally by a bare majority of a quorum, or of members present. . . .'"

            Applying these precepts to the instant case it thus follows (again, because of the absence of any statute to the contrary) that so long as a quorum of the state committee on salaries is present a motion or other proposition may be passed by the concurring votes of a simple majority of the committee members who are, in fact, in attendance at the particular meeting.

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/RCW 4.04.010 directs that:

            "The common law, so far as it is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, or of the state of Washington nor incompatible with the institutions and condition of society in this state, shall be the rule of decision in all the courts of this state."

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