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AGLO 1979 No. 18 - April 16, 1979
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- FIRE PROTECTION ‑- PUBLIC MEETINGS ‑- PROCEDURE FOR CALLING SPECIAL MEETING OF FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS

In view of the specific legislative directive in RCW 42.30.140, it is RCW 42.30.080 and not RCW 52.12.090 which governs the calling of a special meeting of a board of fire protection district commissioners; accordingly, such a meeting may be called by the presiding officer of the board or by a majority of the members of the board without any necessity for concurrence by the secretary to the board.

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                                                                   April 16, 1979

Honorable Paul Conner
State Senator, 24th Dist.
427 Public Lands Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1979 No. 18

                                                                                                                                                                 (withdrawing AGLO 1979 No. 16)

Dear Senator Conner:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            By what means may a special meeting of a board of fire protection district commissioners be called?

            We answer this question in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            At the outset, it will be recalled that we previously responded to your question in AGLO 1979 No. 16.  Unfortunately, however, we there failed to note and give effect to a determinative statement of legislative intent as expressed in RCW  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] 42.30.140.  It is, accordingly, our purpose at this time to correct that error by withdrawing AGLO 1979 No. 16 and replacing it with this opinion.

            As earlier indicated your question has arisen because of an apparent conflict between two statutes.  First, RCW 52.12.090 (codifying § 31, chapter 34, Laws of 1939 as last amended by § 8, chapter 254, Laws of 1947) provides as follows:

            "The office of the fire commissioners and principal place of business of the district shall be at some place within the county in which the district is situated, to be designated by the board of fire commissioners.  The board shall hold regular monthly meetings at their office on such day as they, by resolution previously adopted, shall determine, and may adjourn such meetings as may be required for the proper transaction of business.  Special meetings of the board may be called at any time by a majority of the commissioners or by the secretary and the chairman of the board.  Any fire commissioner not joining in the call of a special meeting shall be entitled to a three days written notice by mail of the same, specifying generally the business proposed to be transacted at said special meeting, but when at any special meeting of the board all members are present, lack of previous notice thereof shall not invalidate the proceedings.  (Emphasis supplied)

            The other statute involved is RCW 42.30.080.  This statute originated as § 8, chapter 250, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., a part of the state open public meetings act, and reads (in pertinent part) as follows:

            "A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the governing body of a public agency or by a majority of the members of the governing body by delivering personally or by mail written notice to each member of the governing body; and to each local newspaper of general circulation and to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] each local radio or television station which has on file with the governing body a written request to be notified of such special meeting or of all special meetings. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)

            To the extent that a special meeting of the commissioners of a fire protection district may be called by a majority of the commissioners there is no conflict between the two statutes.  There is, however, a conflict on the question of whether the chairman of the board of fire commissioners may call a special meeting by himself or whether such action requires the concurrence of the secretary of the particular fire protection district which he serves.  If RCW 42.30.080 takes precedence, the chairman of the board of commissioners, by himself, may call a special meeting.  But if, instead, RCW 52.12.090 prevails, the concurrence of the secretary is required.

            In addition, there is another significant difference between the two statutes.  While RCW 52.12.090 requires a three‑day written notice to each commissioner not joining in the call of a special meeting, a further provision of RCW 42.30.080 states that:

            ". . . Such notice must be delivered personally or by mailat least twenty-four hours before the time of such meeting as specified in the notice. . . ."

            In AGLO 1979 No. 16 we resolved the conflict between the two statutes involved on the basis of a principal of statutory construction commonly utilized by the courts in the absence of some clear statement of legislative intent in one or the other of the two conflicting laws themselves.  Under that principle a special act, even though it predates a later enacted general law, is not superseded by the conflicting provisions of that general law ". . . unless that is the plain legislative intent. . . ."  See,Spokane & Eastern Tr. Co. v. Spokane County, 173 Wash. 699, 22 P.2d 656 (1933);Bank of Fairfield v. Spokane Co., 173 Wash. 145, 22 P.2d 646 (1933); and 2 Sutherland, Statutory Construction, § 5204, page 541 wherein the proposition is stated as follows:

            "General and special acts may be in pari materia.  If so, they should be construed together. Where one statute deals with a subject in general terms, and another  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] deals with a part of the same subject in a more detailed way, the two should be harmonized if possible; but if there is any conflict,the latter will prevail, regardless of whether it was passed prior to the general statute, unless it appears that the legislature intended to make the general act controlling."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In the instant case, however, we have now had our attention called to the fact that there is, indeed, such a controlling expression of legislative intent.  Specifically, RCW 42.30.140, codifying § 14, chapter 250, Laws 1971, 1st Ex. Sess. (the open public meetings act of which RCW 42.30.080 is also a part), states that:

            "If any provision of this chapter conflicts with the provisions of any other statute, the provisions of this chapter shall control. . . ."

            Therefore, contrary to the conclusion which we reached in AGLO 1979 No. 16, it is RCW 42.30.080 and not RCW 52.12.090 which controls the procedures for the calling of a special meeting of a board of fire protection district commissioners.1/   And thus, the proper answer to your question is that a special meeting of a board of fire commissioners may now be called with the presiding officer or by a majority of the members of the board without any necessity for concurrence by the secretary of the board.  In addition, the applicable notice requirement is the 24-hour requirement contained in RCW 42.30.080 rather than the three‑day notice requirement in RCW 52.12.090.

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General


                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Clearly, such a board constitutes a "public agency" for the purposes of the open public meetings act and the board of commissioners constitutes a "governing body" as those two terms are expressly defined in RCW 42.30.020.

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