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AGLO 1977 No. 31 - July 15, 1977
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- STATE BOARD FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE EDUCATION ‑- ELIGIBILITY FOR SERVICE AS A MEMBER

A certain individual would not be rendered ineligible to serve on the state board for community college education under RCW 28B.50.050 by reason of his execution of a given personal service contract with the Institute for Educational Leadership.

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                                                                    July 15, 1977

Honorable H. A. "Barney" Goltz
State Senator, 42nd District
3003 Vallette Street
Bellingham, Washington 98225                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1977 No. 31

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have made reference to a proposed personal services contract between Mr. Ian MacGowan, a current member of the state board for community college education, and a Ford Foundation funded organization known as the Institute for Educational Leadership.  You have then inquired as to whether Mr. MacGowan would be rendered ineligible for continued membership on the state board under RCW 28B.50.050 if he were to enter into the proposed contract.

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

                                                                    ANALYSIS

            RCW 28B.50.050, which relates to the state board for community college education (hereinafter college board), provides, in pertinent part, that:

            ". . .  No member of the college board shall be, during his term of office, also a member of the state board of education, a member of a K-12 board, a member of the governing board of any public or private educational institution, a member of a community college board of trustees, or an employee of any of the above boards, or have any direct pecuniary interest in education within this state."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Clearly, the proposed contract here in question would not cause Mr. MacGowan to become a member of the state board of education, a member of a K-12 board, a member of the governing board of any public or private educational institution, a member of a community college board of trustees or an employee of any of the above boards.  Thus, the only issue presented by your request is whether he would, by reason of that contract, nevertheless acquire a ". . . direct pecuniary interest in education within this state."  And in answering that question we must be guided by the well-established principle that a strong public policy exists in favor of eligibility for public office.  Laws establishing qualifications are thus to be narrowly construed and all doubts regarding a given individual's eligibility for a particular office are to be resolved in his favor.  63 Am.Jur. 2d, Public Officers and Employees, § 38; see, also, State ex rel. O'Connell v. Dubuque, 68 Wn.2d 553, 413 P.2d 972 (1966).

            In the instant case, it is our understanding that under the proposed contract, Mr. MacGowan would be serving on a compensated basis as the Washington associate of the Institute for Educational Leadership with primary responsibility for the development and conduct of seminars ". . . designed to improve communication between legislators and persons from the executive branch and persons of the educational community."  He would not, however, be employed by, or otherwise have any financial interest in, a school or other educational institution of a similar nature.  Instead, his "employer" would be a privately funded organization connected with education simply to the extent that it would be involved in studying and otherwise working with educational issues.

            There can be no doubt that Mr. MacGowan's "interest" under the contract would be, in the words of RCW 28B.50.050, supra, a "direct pecuniary interest"; i.e., he would be paid for what he was doing.  Moreover, it is also true that in a broad sense, that interest would be related to the subject of education.  In our opinion, however, to disqualify him for membership on the state board for community college education on that basis, while it might seem to be supported by a literal reading of the statute, would be contrary to the above noted rule in favor of eligibility for public office.  In short, in the absence of more specifically applicable statutory language to the contrary,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] such a conclusion would be inconsistent with that principle.  Accordingly, as above indicated, we answer your question in the negative.

            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

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