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AGLO 1970 No. 031 - March 11, 1970
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington
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                                                                  March 11, 1970
Honorable Lloyd G. Baker
Director, Washington Law Enforcement
Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System
201 General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington 98501
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1970 No. 31
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent request for our opinion on two questions pertaining to the eligibility of a certain individual for membership in the Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system.  As we understand it, the individual in question is currently employed on a part-time basis as town marshal of the Town of Hunts Point ‑ and also on a part-time basis as town marshal of the adjacent Town of Yarrow Point.  We paraphrase your questions as follows:
            (1) In view of his present dual employment status, is the individual in question currently eligible for membership in the Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system?
            (2) If question (1) is answered in the negative, may this individual qualify for membership upon being employed on a full-time basis as the town marshal of one of the two towns in question in accordance with a contract executed between the two towns under the interlocal cooperation act (chapter 39.34 RCW) whereby a portion of the individual's services would be performed for the nonemploying town?
            We answer your first question in the negative and your second question in the affirmative.
            Question (1):
            Membership in the Washington law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system is as provided for in RCW 41.26.040 (1), which reads as follows:
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            "All fire fighters and law enforcement officers employed as such on or after March 1, 1970, on a full time fully compensated basis in this state shall be members of the retirement system established by this chapter with respect to all periods of service as such, to the exclusion of any pension system existing under any prior act except as provided in subsection (2) of this section."
            In the case of the individual referred to in your letter, the issue raised is whether, in his present dual employment status, he qualifies as a "law enforcement officer" within the meaning of this statute.  Our negative answer to this question is based upon the definition of the term "law enforcement officer" in RCW 41.26.030 (3).  This definition reads as follows:
            "'Law enforcement officer' means any person who is serving on a full time, fully compensated basis as a county sheriff or deputy sheriff, including sheriffs or deputy sheriffs serving under a different title pursuant to a county charter, city police officer, or town marshal or deputy marshal: PROVIDED, That the term 'city police officer' shall only include such regular, full time personnel of a city police department as have been appointed to offices, positions or ranks in the department which have been specifically created or otherwise expressly provided for and designated by city charter provision or by ordinance enacted by the legislative body of the city."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            However, it seems clear to us that the individual to whom you have referred cannot be regarded as serving on a full-time basis as the town marshal of either of the two towns in question; instead, he is serving as a part-time town marshal for each of these towns.
            As further supporting the conclusion which we have reached, we note that throughout the entire act creating the state law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system1/ there runs a general theme that each  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] law enforcement officer or fire fighter who is a member of the system shall have a single employer who pays his entire salary (RCW 41.26.030 (13)), makes all required employer contributions to the pension fund (RCW 41.26.080) and assumes responsibility for certain disability benefits (RCW 41.26.120 and 41.26.150).  The term "employer" is defined in RCW 41.26.030 (2), to mean
            ". . . the legislative authority of any city, town, county or district or the elected officials of any municipal corporation that employs any law enforcement officer and/or fire fighter and shall include any authorized association of such municipalities."
            It is, of course, a well-established rule of construction that a statute must be construed as a whole, and that construction given, where possible, which will harmonize the entire statute and give full effect to all of its provisions.  See, State v. Houck, 32 Wn.2d 681, 684, 203 P.2d 693 (1949), and cases cited therein.  Applying this rule to the above‑noted provisions of the act governing the state law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system, it is our opinion that in order to qualify for membership therein, an individual must be employed in one of the capacities enumerated in RCW 41.26.030 (3), supra, (or alternatively, in the capacity of a "fire fighter" as defined in subsection (4) of this section) on a full-time basis by a single employer.
            Since the individual described in your letter is not presently employed on this basis, it follows that he cannot currently be regarded as eligible in membership in the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement system.
            Question (2):
            If, however, the individual in question becomes the full-time employee of a single employer ‑ i.e., either of the Town of Hunts Point or of the Town of Yarrow Point ‑ he will, in accordance with the foregoing, henceforth be covered by the provisions of this new state retirement system.  The issue raised by your second question is, in effect, whether the individual's status as a full-time employee of one or the other of the two towns, for purposes of retirement eligibility, would be in any way diminished by the existence of a contract between the two  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] towns executed under the interlocal cooperation act (chapter 39.34 RCW) and designed to allow the nonemploying town to utilize a portion of the total services of the individual.
            Section 1 of the interlocal cooperation act, codified as RCW 39.34.010, sets forth the purpose of the act as follows:
            "It is the purpose of this chapter to permit local governmental units to make the most efficient use of their powers by enabling them to cooperate with other localities on a basis of mutual advantage and thereby to provide services and facilities in a manner and pursuant to forms of governmental organization that will accord best with geographic, economic, population and other factors influencing the needs and development of local communities."
            A key term used throughout the act is the term "public agency," which is defined in RCW 39.34.020 to mean,
            ". . . any city, town, county, public utility district, port district, fire protection district, school district, or metropolitan municipal corporation of this state; any agency of the state government or of the United States; and any political subdivision of another state."  (Emphasis supplied.)
            The basic substantive authority granted by the act is set forth in RCW 39.34.030 (1) and (2), as follows:
            "Any power or powers, privileges or authority exercised or capable of exercise by a public agency of this state may be exercised and enjoyed jointly with any other public agency of this state having the power or powers, privilege or authority, and jointly with any public agency of any other state or of the United States to the extent that laws of such other state or of the United States permit such joint exercise or enjoyment.  Any agency of the state government when acting jointly with any  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] public agency may exercise and enjoy all of the powers, privileges and authority conferred by this chapter upon a public agency.

            "Any two or more public agencies may enter into agreements with one another for joint or cooperative action pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.  Appropriate action by ordinance, resolution or otherwise pursuant to law of the governing bodies of the participating public agencies shall be necessary before any such agreement may enter into force."
            In addition, RCW 39.34.080 contains the following specific grant of authority for contracts to perform governmental activities:
            "Any one or more public agencies may contract with any one or more other public agencies to perform any governmental service, activity, or undertaking which each public agency entering into the contract is authorized by law to perform:  Provided, That such contract shall be authorized by the governing body of each party to the contract.  Such contract shall set forth fully the purposes, powers, rights, objectives, and responsibilities of the contracting parties."
            Unquestionably, these statutory provisions contain ample authority for the execution of a contract between two or more towns for the performance by one, on behalf of both, of the governmental services of law enforcement which each is authorized to perform.  Therefore, a contract between the towns of Hunts Point and Yarrow Point, as contemplated by your second question, would seem clearly to be authorized.2/   And furthermore, we can see no inconsistency between the execution of such a contract and the characterization of the individual whose services are subject to the contract as the full time, fully compensated employee of only one of the two contracting towns for retirement eligibility purposes.
             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]
            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/I.e., chapter 209, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess., as amended by chapter 6, Laws of 1970 ‑ codified as chapter 41.26 RCW.
2/Under this contract we would, of course, contemplate that the only office held by the individual in question would be that of town marshal of Yarrow Point ‑ and that the office of town marshal of Hunts Point would be at least nominally vested in someone else.  See, RCW 35.27.070 and 35.27.240.
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