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AGLO 1977 No. 12 - March 18, 1977
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- AUDITOR ‑- APPOINTMENT OF COUNTY BUDGET OFFFICER

The appointment of a budget officer by a board of county commissioners under RCW 36.32.440 does not relieve the county auditor of his responsibilities under RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050 in connection with the preparation of preliminary county budgets.

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                                                                  March 18, 1977

Honorable James E. Carty
Prosecuting Attorney
Clark County
P.O. Box 5000
Vancouver, Washington 98663                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1977 No. 12

Dear Sir:

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

            In the event that a county employs a budget officer pursuant to RCW 36.32.440, does such action relieve the county auditor of his responsibilities under RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050 in connection with the preparation of preliminary county budgets?

            We answer this question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 36.32.440 reads as follows:

            "The board of county commissioners of the several counties may employ such staff as deemed appropriate to serve the several boards directly in matters including but not limited to purchasing, poverty and relief programs, parks and  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] recreation, emergency services, budgetary preparations set forth in RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050, code enforcement and general administrative coordination.  Such authority shall in no way infringe upon or relieve the county auditor of responsibilities contained in RCW 36.22.010(9) and 36.22.020."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The other statutory provisions to be noted in connection with your question are in RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050.  Those statutes deal with the preparation of preliminary county budgets and require the county auditor to perform certain specified functions.

            In posing your question regarding the relationship between RCW 36.32.440,supra, and RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050 you have also provided us with a copy of your office's own opinion on the question.  In relevant part that opinion reads as follows:

            ". . .  We believe it was the intent of the legislature to relieve the auditor of the duties contained in these sections, since RCW 36.32.440 specifically mentions staff to assist in 'budgetary preparation set forth in RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050, . . .'.  Furthermore, the statute specifically relates what duties of the auditor are not to be infringed on or from which he is not relieved.  These sections, RCW 36.22.010(9) and 36.22.020, deal with the auditor's duty to act as clerk of the board of county commissioners where, among other things, he will 'make full entries of all their resolutions and decisions on all questions concerning the raising of money for and the allowance of accounts against the county;' 'sign all orders made and warrants issued by order of the board for the payment of money;' and 'record the reports of the county treasurer of the receipts and disbursements of the county; . . .'  RCW 36.22.020 makes the auditor publisher of the commission proceedings and the custodian of the commissioners' seal.

            "It is therefore our opinion that the passage of RCW 36.32.440 allows the county commissioners to obtain the services of a budget officer to prepare the preliminary budget, and that this relieves the auditor of the duty of doing so, despite RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            We must, however, respectfully indicate disagreement with that reading of the law.  While RCW 36.32.440,supra, does allow the board of county commissioners to employ staff personnel to serve the board in connection with (among other things) ". . . budgetary preparations set forth in RCW 36.40.010-36.40.050 . . .," an examination of the latter discloses that both the county auditor and the board have functions to perform thereunder.  See, in particular, RCW 36.40.020 and RCW 36.40.050.  Thus, the employment of a budget officer to assist the commissioners in the performance oftheir functions under those statutes would be entirely compatible with a continuing performance by the auditor of his functions under the same statutes.  And, as you know, a statute is not to be deemed to have been amended or repealed by implication in the absence of an irreconcilable conflict between that law and a later enactment on the same subject.  See, e.g.,Copeland Lumber Co. v. Wilkins, 75 Wn.2d 940, 454 P.2d 821 (1969), and cases cited therein as follows:

            "It has long been a rule of statutory construction in this state that repeals by implication are not favored.  A statute will not be held to have repealed a preceding statute by implication when the two can stand together.  Before a legislative enactment can be found to have been impliedly repealed by a subsequent act, the later legislation must evidently be intended to supersede the prior legislation on the subject.  Both acts will be allowed to stand unless they are clearly inconsistent with and repugnant to each other and cannot, by fair and reasonable construction, be reconciled and both given effect.  In re Sanford, 10 Wn.2d 686, 118 P.2d 179 (1941); Abel v. Diking & Drainage Improvement Dist. No. 4, 19 Wn.2d 356, 142 P.2d 1017 (1943); Rosenthal v. Tacoma, 31 Wn.2d 32, 195 P.2d 102 (1948); Lindsey v. Superior Court, 33 Wn.2d 94, 204 P.2d 482 (1949);Fransen v. State Bd. of Natural Resources, 66 Wn.2d 672, 404 P.2d 432 (1965);Tardiff v. Shoreline School Dist., 68 Wn.2d 164, 411 P.2d 889 (1966); and State Bd. Against Discrimination v. Board of Directors, Olympia School Dist. No. 1, 68 Wn.2d 262, 412 P.2d 769 (1966)."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            It is nevertheless also true, as you have pointed out, that RCW 36.32.440, in its final sentence, expressly declines to relieve the county auditor of certain other responsibilities he has under RCW 36.22.010(9) and RCW 36.22.020.  That, however, is logical because those particular duties involve the rendering of specific assistance to the county commissioners.1/   But we are simply unable further to view this disclaimer as, by negative implication, somehow affirmatively relieving the auditor of his responsibilities under RCW 36.40.010 through RCW 36.40.050 because those functions, by way of contrast, are not merely of a kind exercised for the assistance of the board of county commissioners.  See, for instance, RCW 36.40.030, wherein the auditor is given the specific power to impose penalties upon other public officials ‑ a power which probably would not be transferable to staff personnel appointed by the board of county commissioners under RCW 36.32.440.

            We thus must answer your question in the negative with the hope, nevertheless, that this opinion will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/RCW 36.22.010(9) designates the county auditor as clerk of the board of county commissioners and RCW 36.22.020 makes him the official publisher of commission proceedings.

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