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August 26, 1971
Honorable C. J. Rabideau
P.O. Box 951
Pasco, Washington 99301 Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 101 (not official)
You have requested the opinion of this office on a question we paraphrase as follows:
Beginning January 1, 1972, will the salaries of prosecuting attorneys in counties of the fourth class containing a community college be increased to fifteen thousand dollars per annum solely because of the existence within their borders of such a college?
Our answer is in the negative.
Section 36.17.020, chapter 4, Laws of 1969, as amended by Section 1, chapter 226, Laws of 1969 1st ex. sess. and RCW 36.17.020 were each extensively amended by the 1971 legislative session through its enactment of section 1, chapter 237, Laws of 1971 1st ex. sess. The principal effect of these amendments was to raise the salaries of certain named county officials beginning January 1, 1972. The amendments with which we are concerned in this opinion occur on page 2 of the act, and read as follows:
"Counties of the fourth class: . . . prosecuting attorney, in such a county in which there is no state university, ((ten)) thirteen thousand dollars; prosecuting attorney, in such a county in which there is a state university or college, fifteen thousand dollars; . . ."
Washington State University is in Whitman county, and Central Washington State College is in Kittitas county. Both these counties are of the fourth class. Your question, however, does not relate to either of them, but rather to those fourth class counties in which a community college only is located. You refer specifically to Clallam and Franklin Counties, as well as to Island county, which has an extension of a community college located in neighboring Skagit county.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Though no one would term this legislation a model of legal draftsmanship, when carefully read, its intention seems reasonably clear. At the outset, a preliminary question occurs. Does the wording of the statute mean that prosecutors' salaries will be increased to fifteen thousand dollars only in those fourth class counties in which a "state university" is located? Or will the presence of a mere "college" justify this additional compensation? The two relevant clauses appear to contradict each other on this point. However, as the result of this opinion makes it unnecessary to consider the question, we will simply pass over it, and assume that the presence of a "college" in a fourth class county will suffice to qualify its prosecutor for a salary increase.
What, though, did the legislature mean by "college"?
Either the word "state" preceding the word "university" also modifies the word "college" or it does not. We are of the view that the legislature intended it to do so. If "college" is construed not to mean "state college," it follows that the legislature wished to increase prosecutors' salaries in counties wherein were located not only community colleges but private colleges and, perhaps, even business colleges as well. The existence within a county of such colleges would seem to have little relationship either to the prosecutor's duties or to his salary. We are not required to construe a statute so as to reach so absurd a result. See 2 Sutherland, Statutory Construction (3rd Ed.), section 4919, p. 241.
We assume, therefore, that the legislature intended that prosecutors' salaries be raised to fifteen thousand dollars only in those fourth class counties containing "state universities" or "state colleges." Once this determination is reached, the matter seems foreclosed by RCW 28B.40.010, which reads as follows:
"The state colleges shall be located and designated as follows: At Bellingham, the Western Washington State College; at Cheney, the Eastern Washington State College; at Ellensburg, the Central Washington State College; in Thurston County, the Evergreen State College."
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Elsewhere in the statutes, when the legislature has employed the term "state college" these have obviously been the institutions to which reference was intended to be made. See RCW 28B.10.020, 28B.10.550 and 28B.10.560. Conversely, whenever the legislature has desired to make laws affecting both state colleges and community colleges, the two types of institutions have been separately mentioned. See RCW 28B.10.640 and 28B.10.015.
Such statutes are in pari materia with RCW 36.17.020, in the sense that they deal with the same subject matter. We have no reason to believe that the legislature intended to abandon its well-settled practice in passing the act here under consideration. This is clearly an instance where it is in order to apply the familiar legal maxim that where a statute enumerates the subjects on which it is to operate, it is to be construed as excluding from its effect all those things not expressly mentioned. See State ex rel. Port of Seattle v. The Department of Public Service, et al., 1 Wn.2d 102, 112, 95 P.2d 1007.
It is our conclusion, therefore, that when the legislature passed chapter 237, Laws of 1971, 1st ex. sess. it did not intend thereby that the salaries of prosecuting attorneys in fourth class counties containing a community college be increased to fifteen thousand dollars per annum solely because of the existence of that college.
We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
JOHN S. ROBINSON
Assistant Attorney General