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AGLO 1974 No. 11 - January 25, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ‑- REIMBURSEMENT OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES FOR USE OF THEIR OWN AUTOMOBILES ON COUNTY BUSINESS

RCW 42.24.090 authorizes a board of county commissioners to prescribe by ordinance or resolution a mileage rate for the reimbursement of county officers and employees, other than those designated in RCW 36.17.020, for the use of their own private automobiles on official county business that is in excess of the ten cents per mile rate provided for in RCW 36.17.030.

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                                                                 January 25, 1974

Honorable John C. Merkel
Prosecuting Attorney
Kitsap County Court House
614 Division Street
Port Orchard, Washington 98366                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 11

Dear Sir:

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

            (1) Does RCW 42.24.090 authorize a board of county commissioners to prescribe by ordinance or resolution a mileage rate for the reimbursement of county officers and employees for the use of their own private automobiles on official county business that is in excess of the ten cents per mile rate provided for in RCW 36.17.030?

            (2) If question (1) must be answered in the negative insofar as those county officers covered by RCW 36.17.030 are concerned, to what county officers does this last cited statute apply?

            We answer both of your questions in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 42.24.090, codifying § 2, chapter 116, Laws of 1965, provides, in pertinent part, that:

            ". . . unless otherwise authorized by law, the legislative body of any municipal corporation or political subdivision of the state may prescribe by ordinance or resolution the amounts to be paid officers or employees thereof as reimbursement for the use of their personal automobiles or other transportation equipment in connection with officially assigned duties and other travel for approved public purposes,  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] or as reimbursement to such officers or employees in lieu of actual expenses incurred for lodging, meals or other purposes.  The rates for such reimbursements may be computed on a mileage, hourly, per diem or other basis as the respective legislative bodies shall determine to be proper in each instance."

            RCW 36.17.030, on the other hand, which long predated the enactment of RCW 42.24.090,supra, provides that:

            "All county officers shall be entitled to their necessary reasonable traveling expenses in the perforamance of their official duties, bills therefor to be audited by the county commissioners: Provided, That when using their own cars, they shall be allowed not to exceed ten cents per mile for each mile of necessary travel."

            In AGO 65-66 No. 76 [[to Sid Buckley, Prosecuting Attorney, Stevens County on March 7, 1966]], copy enclosed, this office considered the relationship between these two statutes, insofar as county officers and employees are concerned, and concluded that RCW 36.17.030 is a special statute governing county officers only, while RCW 42.24.090 is applicable to their deputies and other employees.  Based upon the reasoning of this prior opinion, we would answer your first question as follows:

            A board of county commissioners, exercising the authority granted to it by RCW 42.24.090,supra, may prescribe by ordinance or resolution a mileage rate for the reimbursement of deputy county officers and employees for the use of their own private automobiles in connection with official county business that is in excess of the ten cents per mile rate prescribed by RCW 36.17.030; however, those county officers to which this latter statute applies may not be reimbursed for the use of their private automobiles on official county business at a rate in excess of ten cents per mile.

            Insofar as your second question is concerned, we think that the answer thereto is to be found in RCW 36.17.020 which provides for the salaries to be paid to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the following county elected officials:  auditor, clerk, treasurer, sheriff, assessor, prosecuting attorney, coroner, and members of the board of county commissioners.  Until and unless RCW 36.17.030, supra, is amended by a bill such as House Bill No. 150, copy enclosed, currently pending before the legislature, the maximum mileage rate for the reimbursement of these county officers for the use of their private automobiles on official county business will be ten cents per mile as presently provided for therein.1/

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/House Bill No. 150, if enacted, would amend RCW 36.17.030 to read as follows:

            "All county officers shall be entitled to their necessary reasonable traveling expenses in the performance of their official duties, bills therefor to be audited by the county commissioners:  PROVIDED, That when using their own cars, they shall be allowed ((not to exceed ten cents)) such compensation per mile for each mile of necessary travelas is established by the county legislative authority."

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