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AGLO 1974 No. 101 - December 02, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- LIBRARY ‑- PROPERTY ‑- DISPOSITION OF SURPLUS LIBRARY DISTRICT PROPERTY

The board of trustees of a library district established pursuant to chapter 27.12 RCW has the power to dispose by sale of surplus property belonging to the library district.

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                                                                December 2, 1974

Honorable Robert V. Graham
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                             Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 101

Dear Sir:
 
            This is written in response to your recent request for our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
 
            Does the board of trustees of a library district established pursuant to chapter 27.12 RCW have the power to dispose by sale of surplus property belonging to the library district?
 
            We answer this question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            Library districts, like other municipal corporations, have only those powers explicitly granted to them and those powers necessarily implied from the language of the express grants of power.  Hughbanks v. Port of Seattle, 193 Wash. 498, 76 P.2d 603 (1938).  Based upon that principle and the foregoing case, this office earlier advised, in AGO 53-55 No. 233 [[to M. E. Reynolds, State Librarian on April 6, 1954]](copy enclosed), that such districts, acting through their respective boards of trustees, do not have the power to sell any of their property.  We are, however, now of the belief that this earlier opinion should be modified in the case of what you have referred to in your questions as "surplus" property.
 
            The basic powers and duties of the trustees of a library district as set forth in RCW 27.12.210 are as follows:
 
            "The trustees, immediately after their appointment or election, shall meet and organize by the election of such officers as they deem necessary.  They shall:
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            "(1) Adopt such bylaws, rules, and regulations for their own guidance and for the government of the library as they deem expedient;
 
            "(2) Have the supervision, care, and custody of all property of the library, including the rooms or buildings constructed, leased, or set apart therefor;
 
            "(3) Employ a librarian, and upon his recommendation employ such other assistants as may be necessary, all in accordance with the provisions of RCW 27.08.010, prescribe their duties, fix their compensation, and remove them for cause;
 
            "(4) Submit annually to the legislative body a budget containing estimates in detail of the amount of money necessary for the library for the ensuing year; except that in a rural county library district the board of library trustees shall prepare its budget, certify the same and deliver it to the board of county commissioners in ample time for it to make the tax levies for the purpose of the district;
 
            "(5) Have exclusive control of the finances of the library;
 
            "(6) Accept such gifts of money or property for library purposes as they deem expedient;
 
            "(7) Lease or purchase land for library buildings;
 
            "(8) Lease, purchase, or erect an appropriate building or buildings for library purposes, and acquire such other property as may be needed therefor;
 
            "(9) Purchase books, periodicals, maps, and supplies for the library; and
 
            "(10) Do all other acts necessary for the orderly and efficient management and control of the library."
 
            Subsection (2) of this statute provides that the trustees of a library district shall "have the supervision, care, and custody of all property of the library, . . ."   [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Subsections (7), (8), and (9) give the trustees the power to acquire land, buildings, property, books, supplies, etc., for the use of the library.  And subsection (10) grants them the power to "do all other acts necessary for the orderly and efficient management and control of the library."
 
            Although it is the general rule that municipal corporations which have the power to acquire property have implied power to sell it, that rule does not apply to property held by a municipal corporation for governmental use.  Com'l Waterway Dist. No. 1 v. King County, 200 Wash. 538, 94 P.2d 491 (1939).  Therefore, absent express authorization, we still must conclude that a library district does not have the general power to sell its property.
 
            This does not mean, however, that when property is no longer needed for public use by such a district, it cannot be disposed of in some appropriate manner.  As we said in AGO 51-53-466 [[to J. C. Merkel, Prosecuting Attorney, Kitsap County on January 21, 1953]], copy enclosed, such authorities as the above cited case
 
            ". . . should not be construed to mean that municipal officers can never dispose of real property of the corporation without express legislative authority.  The rule is correctly stated in 10 McQuillin on Municipal Corporations (3rd Ed.) § 28.38, amply supported by citations in the footnotes, as follows:
 
            "'Property devoted to a public use cannot be sold or leased without special statutory authority, although property which has ceased to be used or is not used by the public may be sold or leased as the public welfare may require.'"
 
            Indeed, it would appear to be quite "necessary for the orderly and efficient management and control of the library" for its board of trustees to have some mechanism for disposing of property it no longer needs.  The intergovernmental disposition of property act, chapter 39.33 RCW, provides one such mechanism, but it is entirely possible for the trustees to devise other mechanisms which would comply with the law regarding disposition of surplus property.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
            It is our opinion, therefore, that a library district does have the power to sell its surplus property under procedures adopted by such district in its bylaws under RCW 27.12.210(1) and (10), and we thus answer your question in the affirmative.  To this extent, AGO 53-55 No. 233 should be deemed modified.
 
            We trust the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

JAMES K. PHARRIS
Assistant Attorney General

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