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March 17, 1970
Honorable Gary Grant
State Representative, 47th District
12835 S.E. 160th
Renton, Washington 98055
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 35
Reference is made to your letter dated November 25, 1969, requesting our opinion on several questions pertaining to the transitional procedures to be followed by a certain city in order to come under the provisions of the optional municipal code (chapter 35A, RCW). Following receipt of your letter we had several conversations with you from which we were led to understand that the city in question was the city of Renton, and that the particular option selected by it under the provisions of the code was that of becoming a noncharter code city, as provided for in chapter 35A.02 RCW, operating under the mayor-council plan of government provided for in chapter 35A.12 RCW.1/
Basically, the questions you submitted divided themselves into the following two categories:
(1) Questions pertaining to the time sequence involved between the adoption of a resolution, under RCW 35A.02.030, declaring the intention of the city's legislative body to change its classification to that of a noncharter code city operating under the mayor-council plan of government, and the enactment of the requisite implementing city ordinance effecting this intention; and
(2) Questions pertaining to the procedures to be followed in electing the first slate of new city officers to govern the city under its newly adopted plan of government.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Following receipt of your letter, we commenced a consideration of these questions on the basis of the optional municipal code as it then stood ‑ i.e., substantially as adopted by the 1967 legislature through its enactment of chapter 119, Laws of 1967, Ex. Sess. However, upon reviewing the code in this original form, it soon became apparent to us that in certain areas which were related to your questions ‑ and, particularly, those questions pertaining to the first election of officers under the city's proposed new plan of government ‑ the code was replete with ambiguities, inconsistencies, and even apparent voids with respect to certain aspects of this procedure. Accordingly, at this point we determined it appropriate to draft and submit for consideration by the then convened special session of the legislature a remedial amendatory bill. This bill was introduced as Senate Bill 294, and after certain further amendments proposed in the Senate, it was duly enacted and was signed into law by the governor as chapter 52, Laws of 1970. Since it contained an emergency clause it became effective on February 20, 1970, when it was signed by the governor.2/
Under the provisions of this amendatory act, all of your questions pertaining to the electoral procedures to be followed in connection with the first election of city officers under its new proposed mayor-council plan of government are readily answerable. Under this enactment, a nominating primary is to be held in conjunction with the September, 1970 state primary, and new officers are to be elected at the November, 1970 state general election.3/ Candidates for the seven councilmanic offices under the new plan of government (see, RCW 35A.12.010) will be required to file and run for such offices by numbered positions.4/
The present terms of the incumbent city councilmen will expire upon the election and qualification of the seven councilmen elected to the councilmanic positions created by the new plan of government5/ - thus meaning that [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] any of the incumbent councilmen who desire to continue on the city council will have to seek election thereto.6/ However, on the other hand, in accordance with the Senate's amendment to Senate Bill 294, as originally drafted by this office, the term of the presently incumbent mayor will not expire at the time of the first election of officers under the new plan of government. Instead, pursuant to § 3, chapter 52, Laws of 1970,
". . . the mayor in office at the time of such election shall continue for another four year term coextensive with the terms for which councilmen are elected and there shall be no election as to mayor. . . ."
In so far as your questions pertaining to the time sequence involved in the adoption of the city's implementing ordinance are concerned, it is our understanding that these questions have become moot. On or about January 15, 1970, the city in question proceeded to adopt its ordinance No. 2537, as provided for in RCW 35A.02.030, effecting its earlier resolution of intention to become a noncharter code city operating under the mayor-council plan of government. Thereafter, an ensuing proposal to repeal this ordinance was considered but rejected by the existing city council at its meeting on March 9, 1970.7/ We have no doubt that the city's adoption of this ordinance was timely and in full accord with the governing statute.
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/See, AGO 1970 No. 5 [[to Municipal Research Council on February 17, 1970]], copy enclosed, for a summary of they various options which are available under the code.
2/Accord, Article II, § 1 (Amendment 7) to the Washington State Constitution.
3/See, § 2, chapter 52, Laws of 1970.
4/See, § 3, chapter 52, Laws of 1970, together with RCW 35A.29.105.
5/See, § 3, chapter 52, Laws of 1970.
6/The constitutionality of this approach ‑ i.e., the premature termination of the terms of elected municipal officials in accordance with an act of the legislature passed during those terms ‑ was sustained by the Washington Supreme Court in the early case of Rogue v. Seattle, 19 Wash. 396, 53 Pac. 548 (1898); see, also, State ex rel. Sylvester v. Superior Court, 64 Wash. 594, 117 Pac. 487 (1911).
7/Our source of the factual information contained in this paragraph of our letter is Mr. Gerard M. Shellan, City Attorney of the City of Renton, who has contacted us from time to time with regard to the same basic questions which were posed by you in your original request.