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AGLO 1970 No. 026 - March 03, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                   March 3, 1970
Honorable George F. Hanigan
Prosecuting Attorney
Wahkiakum County
P.O. Box 56
Cathlamet, Washington 98612
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 26
Dear Sir:
            We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated February 27, 1970, requesting our opinion as to the composition of a county law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' disability board in the case of a county, such as yours, which has no "fire fighters" as defined in RCW 41.26.030 (4).
            The statutory provision which raises your inquiry is RCW 41.26.110 (1) (b), which requires each county to establish a disability board having jurisdiction over all members of the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system residing in the county and not employed by a city in which a disability board has been established.  The statute then goes on to describe the composition of this county disability board as follows:
            ". . .  The county disability board so created shall be composed of five members to be chosen as follows:  One member of the legislative body of the county to be appointed by the county legislative body, one member of a city or town legislative body located within the county which does not contain a city disability board established pursuant to subsection (1) (a) of this section to be chosen by a majority of the mayors of such cities and towns within the county which does not contain a city disability board, one fire fighter to be elected by the fire fighters subject to the jurisdiction of the county disability board, one law enforcement officer to be elected by the law enforcement officers subject to the jurisdiction of the county disability board, and one member from the public at large who resides within the county but does not reside within a city in which a city disability board is established, to be appointed by the other four appointed members heretofore designated in this subsection.  . . ."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Your question is whether, in the absence of any "fire fighters" being presently employed by any of the municipalities in your county, the "fire fighter" position on the county disability board can be filled by a member of a volunteer fire department who does not qualify as a "fire fighter".1/   Unfortunately, we believe that your question, as thus posed, must be answered in the negative.  Unless a person comes within either the definition of "fire fighter" or the companion definition of "law enforcement officer"2/ he does not qualify for membership in the new law enforcement officers' or fire fighters' retirement system at all.  Only a person who meets the definition of "fire fighter" can be said to possess the necessary qualifications to be appointed to fill the particular position on a county disability board which, under the statute, is to be filled by appointment of a "fire fighter."
            From this it follows that until such time as one or more "fire fighters" are employed by your county, the city of Cathlamet, or one of the fire protection districts located therein, the disability board for Wahkiakum county will have to operate as a four-member board ‑ for the lack of any person qualified to fill the fifth position on the board.
            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/The term "fire fighter" is defined in RCW 41.26.030 (4), as amended by § 1, chapter 6, Laws of 1970, 2nd Ex. Sess., as follows:
            "'Fire fighter' means any person who is serving on a full time, fully compensated basis as a member of a fire department by an employer and who has passed a civil service examination for fire fighter, or fireman if this title is used by the department, and who is actively employed as such; and shall include anyone who is actively employed as a full time fire fighter where the fire department does not have a civil service examination; this term shall also include supervisory fire fighter personnel; and shall also include any full time executive secretary of an association of fire protection districts authorized under chapter 52.08 RCW."
2/See, RCW 41.26.030 (3).
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