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AGLO 1971 No. 91 - July 23, 1971
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                    July 23, 1971
Honorable Arthur R. Eggers
Prosecuting Attorney
Walla Walla County
407 Drumheller Building
Walla Walla, Washington 99362
Attention:  Mr. Carl L. Johnson
            Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
                                                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 91 (not official)
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on the following two questions regarding expense reimbursement for superior court judges:
            "1. A Superior Court Judge, in furtherance of his office, attends meetings at county seat which are breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings.  Typical meetings are of the new Law Library Board, Juvenile Advisory Committee or with Juvenile Staff.  Are claims against the county for the cost of such meals an allowable expense?
            "2. Are claims for reimbursement for such meals subject to audit by the County Auditor and examination and allowance under RCW 36.22.040?"
            We answer the first of these two questions in the negative, thereby rendering consideration of your second question unnecessary.
            RCW 36.17.030, relating to the allowance of expenses for county officers, privides 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 per mile for each mile of necessary travel."  (Emphasis supplied.)
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            This statute, of course, is applicable only to the extent that a superior court judge is regarded as a county officer.  On the other hand, if such a judge is regarded as a state officer, the applicable statute would be RCW 43.03.050, which provides as follows:
            "The heads of all state departments may prescribe per diem rates of allowance, not exceeding fifteen dollars in lieu of subsistence and lodging to elective and appointive officials and state employees while engaged on official business away from their designated posts of duty, but within the state of Washington, and not exceeding twenty-five dollars per day while engaged on official business elsewhere."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            Because of the underscored portions of these two statutes, it is not necessary to decide in this opinion whether a superior court judge should be regarded as a county officer or as a state officer, in so far as expense reimbursement is concerned.  Neither of these two statutes, in any event, authorizes any form of expense reimbursement for wholly local expenses such as are described in your first question ‑ as distinguished from travel expenses away from the officer's principal place of duty.
            Our research has disclosed no other statutory provision which could be said to authorize the reimbursement of locally incurred expenses in the case of a superior court judge ‑ or, for that matter, in the case of any other county or state officer.  Therefore, because of this absence of any statutory authority, it follows that the expenses in question are not reimbursable.
            In view of this negative answer to your first question, we need not consider your second question for, as we read it in context, this second question assumes that the expenses described in your first question are reimbursable, and merely asks whether the procedure set forth in RCW 36.22.040 must be followed in paying them.
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General
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