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AGLO 1970 No. 084 - June 01, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                    June 1, 1970
 
 
 
Honorable Herbert H. Davis
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
1112 Meade Avenue
Prosser, Washington 99350
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 84
 
 
Dear Sir:
 
            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question pertaining to the selection of hospital district commissioners under the provisions of chapter 77, Laws of 1967 (RCW 70.44.051-70.44.057).
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            A xerox copy of this 1967 act is attached hereto, and by reference incorporated herein.  Sections 1 and 2 prescribe a procedure for increasing the number of hospital district commissioners in either an existing intracounty or intercounty district from three to either five or seven, upon approval of a proposition calling for such an increase by the voters of the district
 
            "At any general or special election which may be called for that purpose . . ."
 
            The manner of electing the commissioners of a hospital district which has increased the number of its commissioners from three to either five or seven is spelled out in § 3 of the act (RCW 70.44.055) as follows:
 
            "(1)(a) In intracounty districts having five commissioners, one shall be elected from each commissioner district as provided in RCW 70.44.040, and two shall be elected at large from the hospital district by positions No. 4 and No. 5.
 
            "(b) In intercounty districts having five commissioners, two shall be elected from each commissioner district by positions No. 1 and No. 2, and one shall be elected at large from the hospital district.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            "(2)(a) In intracounty districts having seven commissioners, two shall be elected from each commissioner district by positions No. 1 and No. 2, and one shall be elected at large from the entire hospital district.
 
            "(b) In intercounty districts having seven commissioners, three shall be elected from each commissioner district by positions No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3, and one shall be elected at large from the entire hospital district."
 
            Finally, in § 4 of the act (RCW 70.44.057) the legislature imposed the following requirement on the existing board of hospital district commissioners of existing public hospital districts in which an increase in membership of the board is proposed:
 
            "(1) In all existing public hospital districts in which an increase in membership of the board of hospital district commissioners is proposed, the district commissioners shall, by resolution adopted in advance of any elections therefor, provide for the staggering of terms of the additional commissioner positions so that, as nearly as is mathematically possible, one‑third of the expanded board shall be elected every two years.
 
            ". . ."1/
 
             From our reading of this last quoted provision, it seems apparent to us that the legislature intended that between the approval of a proposition to increase the number of hospital district commissioners (from three to either five or seven) and the first election of any new commissioners to fill these additional positions, the existing commissioners would, by resolution, provide for the staggering of terms  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] of the additional commissioner positions in the manner specified.  From this, we discern a legislative intent that the new positions in question are not to be filled by appointment by the preexisting commissioners; rather, the new positions are to be filled by an election to be held at some time following the election at which the proposition to increase the number of commissioners was initially submitted and approved.  The only appointive authority which is vested in the existing members of a board of hospital district commissioners pertains solely to the filling of vacancies occurring,
 
            ". . . by death, resignation, removal, conviction of felony, nonattendance at meetings of the commission for sixty days, unless excused by the commission, by any statutory disqualification, or by any permanent disability preventing the proper discharge of his duty.  . . ."  (RCW 70.44.045.)
 
            Accordingly, in direct response to your question, it is our opinion that the initial positions on the board of hospital district commissioners which are created pursuant to the provisions of chapter 77, Laws of 1967, supra, are not to be filled by appointment of the preexisting commissioners; rather, they are only to be filled by an election at the next general election of the hospital district following the election (general or special) at which the proposition to increase the number of commissioners was submitted to, and approved by, the voters of the district.
 


            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
SLADE GORTON
Attorney General
 
 
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
 
 
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
 
1/Subsection (2) of this section deals with the formation of a new hospital district which is to be governed by a board of commissioners consisting of more than three members, and provides as follows:
 
            "When a new district is proposed with more than three commissioners, the county commissioners of the counties affected shall adopt the resolution prescribed in subsection (1) of this section."
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