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AGO 1972 No. 29 - December 22, 1972
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- MUNICIPAL ‑- REPORTS OF FINANCIAL INTERESTS ‑- REPORTING PERIOD

(1) The reports of financial interests which are required from certain candidates for public office and elected officials under § 24 of Initiative No. 276 are to be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission at the office of the secretary of state.

(2) The first reports of the financial interests of elected officials reporting as such (and not as candidates) under § 24 of Initiative No. 276 will not be due until January 31, 1974, and these reports will cover the twelve‑month period beginning on January 1, 1973, and ending on December 31, 1973.

(3) An individual who holds two or more elected offices, each of which would necessitate his filing a report of financial interests under § 24 of Initiative No. 276 if held separately, need not file separate reports for each such office.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               December 22, 1972

Honorable Irving Newhouse
State Representative
Route 1, Box 130
Mabton, Washington 98935

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1972 No. 29

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested our advice on several questions regarding § 24 of Initiative No. 276 which requires certain candidates for public office and elected officials to file periodic reports of their financial affairs.  We paraphrase the questions to be answered by this opinion1/as follows:

            (1) With whom and where must the financial disclosures reports required by § 24 of Initiative No. 276 be filed?

            (2) Will those elected officials who are covered by § 24 be required to file any reports by January 31, 1973, or  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] will the first reports required of those elected officials as such be due in January of 1974 to cover the twelve‑month period beginning on January 1, 1973, and ending on December 31, 1973?

            (3) If a person holds two or more elected offices, each of which would require him as the holder to file a report under § 24 of the initiative, must he file a separate report for each such office?

            For the reasons set forth in our analysis, our answers to these questions are as follows:

            (1) The subject reports must be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission created by § 35 of the initiative at the office of the secretary of state.

            (2) The first reports of elected officials reporting as such (and not as candidates) under § 24 of the initiative will not be due until January 31, 1974, and these reports will cover the twelve‑month period beginning on January 1, 1973, and ending on December 31, 1973.

            (3) An individual who holds two or more elected offices, each of which would necessitate his filing a report under § 24 (1) if held separately, need not file separate reports for each such office.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Initiative No. 276, as approved by the voters at the November 7, 1972, general election, is a comprehensive enactment consisting of four major substantive chapters.  The first of these relates to electoral campaign financing and requires the disclosure of all sources of campaign contributions and of the objects of all such expenditures.2/   The second is designed to regulate the activities of lobbyists and to require reports of their expenditures.3/   Part three, as fully set forth in § 24 of the initiative, requires both candidates and elected officials to file periodic reports of a number of designated matters relating to their financial and business affairs; and finally, part four4/ governs access to the various records of state and local governmental agencies.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Your question pertains to the third of these four parts of the initiative, as set forth in § 24, which reads, in material part, as follows:

            "(1) Every elected official (except President, Vice President and precinct committeemen) shall on or before January 31st of each year, and every candidate (except for the offices of President, Vice President and precinct committeeman) shall, within two weeks of becoming a candidate, file with the commission a written statement sworn as to its truth and accuracy stating for himself and his immediate family for the preceding twelve months:

            "(a) Occupation, name of employer, and business address; and

            "(b) Each direct financial interest in excess of five thousand dollars in a bank or savings account or cash surrender value of any insurance policy; each other direct financial interest in excess of five hundred dollars; and the name, address, nature of entity, nature and value of each such direct financial interest; and

            "(c) The name and address of each creditor to whom the value of five hundred dollars or more was owed; the original amount of each debt to each such creditor; the amount of each debt owed to each creditor as of the date of filing; the terms of repayment of each such debt; and the security given, if any, for each such debt:  PROVIDED, that debts arising out of a 'retail installment transaction' as defined in chap. 63.14 R.C.W. [[chapter 63.14 RCW]](Retail Installment Sales Act) need not be reported; and

            "(d) Every public or private office, directorship and position as trustee held; and

            "(e) All persons for whom actual or proposed legislation, rules, rates, or standards has been prepared, promoted, or opposed for current or deferred compensation; the description of such actual or proposed legislation, rules, rates or standards; and the amount of current or deferred compensation paid or promised to be paid; and

            "(f) The name and address of each governmental entity, corporation, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietorship, association, union, or other  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] business or commercial entity from whom compensation has been received in any form of a total value of five hundred dollars or more; the value of such compensation; and the consideration given or performed in exchange for such compensation; and

            "(g) The name of any corporation, partnership, joint venture, association, union or other entity in which is held any office, directorship or any general partnership interest, or an ownership interest of ten percent or more; the name or title of that office, directorship or partnership; the nature of ownership interest; and with respect to each such entity the name of each governmental entity, corporation, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietorship, association, union or other business or commercial entity from which such entity has received compensation in any form in the amount of five hundred dollars or more during the preceding twelve months and the consideration given or performed in exchange for such compensation; and

            "(h) A list, including legal descriptions, of all real property in the State of Washington, the assessed valuation of which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars in which any direct financial interest was acquired during the preceding calendar year, and a statement of the amount and nature of the financial interest and of the consideration given in exchange for such interest; and

            "(i) A list, including legal descriptions, of all real property in the State of Washington, the assessed valuation of which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars in which any direct financial interest was divested during the preceding calendar year, and a statement of the amount and nature of the consideration received in exchange for such interest, and the name and address of the person furnishing such consideration; and

            "(j) A list, including legal descriptions, of all real property in the State of Washington, the assessed valuation of which exceeds two thousand five hundred dollars in which a direct financial interest was held:  PROVIDED, that if a description of such property has been included in a report previously filed, such property may be listed,  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] for purposes of this provision, by reference to such previously filed report; and

            "(k) A list, including legal descriptions, of all real property in the State of Washington, the assessed valuation of which exceeds five thousand dollars, in which a corporation, partnership, firm, enterprise or other entity had a direct financial interest, in which corporation, partnership, firm or enterprise a ten percent or greater ownership interest was held; and

            "(1) Such other information as the commission may deem necessary in order to properly carry out the purposes and policies of this act, as the commission shall by rule prescribe.

            ". . .

            "(3) Elected officials and candidates reporting under this section shall not be required to file the statements required to be filed with the Secretary of State under R.C.W. 42.21.060 [[RCW 42.21.060]]."

            As will be noted further below in our answer to question (1),supra, the "commission" referred to in this provision is the "Public Disclosure Commission" which is provided for in § 35 of the initiative and the duties and function of which are set forth in §§ 36 through 38 thereof.  The terms "candidate" and "elected official" are defined in § 2 as follows:

            "(5) 'Candidate' means any individual who seeks election to public office . . .

            ". . .

            "(9) 'Elected official' means any person elected at a general or special election to any public office, and any person appointed to fill a vacancy in any such office."

            Each of the questions you have asked calls for our interpretation of § 24,supra, and/or related sections of the initiative.  It will be helpful, therefore, to set forth at the outset certain pertinent rules of statutory construction ‑ those rules being equally as applicable to measures enacted through the initiative process as to acts of the legislature.5/   We begin  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] with the rule that to ascertain the intent of the legislative body, first resort is to be made to the context and subject matter of the legislation, because the intention of the lawmaker is to be deduced, if possible, from what it said.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn.2d 691, 306 P.2d 745 (1957);Driscoll v. Bremerton,48 Wn.2d 95, 291 P.2d 642 (1955).  Related to this is the rule that where the language of a statute is plain, free from ambiguity, and devoid of uncertainty, there is no room for construction, since its meaning will be discovered from the wording of the statute itself.  State v. Houck, 32 Wn.2d 681, 203 P.2d 693 (1949); see also, 2 Sutherland, Statutory Construction, page 33, § 4701.

            Thirdly, in reading an act the words used therein are to be given their usual and ordinary meaning, in the absence of a special definition or other clear indication of legislative intent to the contrary.  Miller v. Pasco, 50 Wn.2d 229, 310 P.2d 863 (1957).

            Finally, it is basic that all parts of a statute must be read together as constituting one harmonious law, wherever possible.  State ex rel. Tacoma R. & P. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Com., 101 Wash. 601, 172 Pac. 890 (1918);Dennis v. Moses, 18 Wash. 537, 52 Pac. 333 (1898).  In cases of doubt, they should receive that construction which produces a sensible result rather than an absurd or meaningless one.  Alderwood Water Dist. v. Pope & Talbot, 62 Wn.2d 319, 382 P.2d 639 (1963).

            With these rules in mind, we will now proceed to restate and answer your questions separately.

            Question (1):

            First you have asked,

            "With whom and where must the financial disclosures reports required by § 24 of Initiative No. 276 be filed?"

            On this subject the initiative is clear and unambiguous.  Section 24 (1),supra, provides that the reports shall consist of a sworn written statement filed ". . . with the commission . . .", and as noted above, the commission is the "Public Disclosure Commission" established under § 35 of the initiative which reads as follows:

            "There is hereby established a 'Public Disclosure Commission' which shall be composed of five members who shall be appointed by the governor, with the consent of the senate.   [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] All appointees shall be persons of the highest integrity and qualifications.  No more than three members shall have an identification with the same political party.  The original members shall be appointed within sixty days after the effective date of this act.  The term of each member shall be five years except that the original five members shall serve initial terms of one, two, three, four and five years, respectively, as designated by the governor.  No member of the commission, during his tenure, shall (1) hold or campaign for elective office; (2) be an officer of any political party or political committee; (3) permit his name to be used, or make contributions, in support of or in opposition to any candidate or proposition; (4) participate in any way in any election campaign; or (5) lobby or employ or assist a lobbyist.  No member shall be eleigible for appointment to more than one full term.  A vacancy on the commission shall be filled within thirty days of the vacancy by the governor, with the consent of the senate, and the appointee shall serve for the remaining term of his predecessor.  A vacancy shall not impair the powers of the remaining members to exercise all of the powers of the commission.  Three members of the commission shall constitute a quorum.  The commission shall elect its own chairman and adopt its own rules of procedure in the manner provided in chapter 34.04 R.C.W. [[chapter 34.04 RCW]].  Any member of the commission may be removed by the governor, but only upon grounds of neglect of duty or misconduct in office.

            "Members shall serve without compensation, but shall be reimbursed for necessary traveling and lodging expenses actually incurred while engaged in the business of the commission as provided in chapter 43.03 R.C.W. [[chapter 43.03 RCW]]."

            It is true that § 38 (1) of the initiative, after directing the secretary of state to perform such ministerial functions as the commission will require, then provides that:

            ". . .  The office of the secretary of state shall be designated as the place where the public may file papers or correspond with the commission and receive any form or instruction from the commission."  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            However, of course, these two sections of the measure must be read together.  State v. Houck,supra.  A most careful examination discloses no conflict whatsoever between them.  Rather, when read together, these sections reveal one coordinated procedure for the filing of an elected official's or candidate's report of his financial affairs as well as all other matters to be filed under the initiative.  They are to be filed ". . . with the commission . . ." as the ultimate enforcement agency; and the physical act of filing is to take place at the secretary of state's office.  In connection with such filings and other matters the secretary of state's office shall, acting for and on behalf of the public disclosure commission, ". . . perform such ministerial functions as may be necessary to enable the commission to carry out its responsibilities . . ." under the initiative.

            Question (2):

            Your second question, as paraphrased, relates to the time for filing the initial reports of elected officials and the period to be covered thereby.  You ask:

            "Will those elected officials who are covered by § 24 be required to file any reports by January 31, 1973, or will the first reports required of those elected officials as such be due in January of 1974 to cover the twelve‑month period beginning on January 1, 1973, and ending on December 31, 1973?"

            Section 24,supra, provides that every elected official must file a report of financial affairs, in the form of a sworn written statement, ". . . on or before January 31st of each year . . . for the preceding twelve months . . .".  However, § 49 of the initiative provides that its effective date is January 1, 1973.  Thus, the first issue raised by the foregoing question is whether the initiative requires the reporting of any transactions occurring before this date or of any reportable financial interests or property ownerships held prior thereto.

            In AGO 65-66 No. 44 [[to Martin J. Durkan, State Senator on October 5, 1965]], copy enclosed, we considered an identical question regarding the operative effect of a similar reporting statute which had just been enacted by the 1965 legislature and which is now codified as RCW 42.21.060.  The effective date of that act was August 6, 1965, or ninety days after adjournment of the session.  The financial statements which were required to be filed by public officials were stated (as here) to be due ". . . on or before January 31st of each year . . .".  In concluding that the first reports due under the act would only cover the period following its effective date, we said:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

            ". . .  It is a general rule that statutes speak prospectively and not retrospectively; i.e., they speak only from the time of their taking effect.  The court inState v. Ladiges, 63 Wn.2d 230, 386 P.2d 416 (1963), stated the rule as follows:

            "'As a general rule, newly enacted statutes and newly adopted court rules operate prospectively only.  McDowell v. Burke, 57 Wn.2d 794, 359 P.2d 1037 (1961).  See, also, 14 Am. Jur., Courts § 156, p. 361.

            "'. . .

            "'An exception to the general rule that laws are to be given prospective effect only is recognized in instances where the enacting authority clearly indicates that a retroactive effect was intendedAshenbrenner v. Department of Labor & Industries, 62 Wn.2d 22, 380 P.2d 730 (1963);Sorensen v. Western Hotels, 55 Wn.2d 625, 349 P.2d 232 (1960).'  (Emphasis supplied.)  (p. 234)

            "See, also,Tellier v. Edwards, 56 Wn.2d 652, 354 P.2d 925 (1960), and cases cited therein.

            "If the present act, § 6, chapter 150, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.,supra, were construed to require an initial report covering transactions that took place before its effective date, it would be operating retrospectively.  InHammack v. Monroe St. Lbr. Co., 54 Wn.2d 224, 339 P.2d 684 (1959), our court said:

            "'In 1814, Mr. Justice Story, in the Society for the Propagation of The Gospel v. Wheeler, No. 13, 156, 22 Fed. Cas. 756, defined a retrospective law as follows:

            "'". . .  Upon principle, every statute, which takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability,in respect to transactions or considerations already past, must be deemed retrospective; . . ."'  (Emphasis supplied.)  (p. 229)"

            Similarly, our examination of Initiative No. 276 discloses no expressed or clearly implied evidence of intention that  [[Orig. Op. Page 10]] the reporting requirements of § 24,supra, should have a retrospective operation.  In this regard we note by way of contrast that in chapter IV of the initiative relating to public records, § 26 requires each public agency covered by its provisions to index certain records issued, adopted or promulgated after June 30, 1972.  Thus, the drafters here demonstrated an awareness of the appropriate way in which to attach a retrospective operation to certain provisions when desired.  That fact would fortify, if any further fortification is necessary, our conclusion based upon the reasoning of AGO 65-66 No. 44, supra, that § 24 was intended to operate prospectively only; i.e., to require reports only as to the period commencing January 1, 1973.

            Having thus determined this point, we must next turn to the question of whether a reporting period under § 24, supra, ends on the date the report is actually filed or, instead, on the last day of the calendar month preceding the month during which the filing is due.

            As noted previously in this opinion, all parts of a statute must be read together as constituting one harmonious law, wherever possible.  State ex rel. Tacoma R. & P. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Com., supra; Dennis v. Moses, supra.  In addition, as stated inAlderwood Water Dist. v. Pope & Talbot,supra, at page 321:

            ". . . a statute should be construed as a whole in order to ascertain legislative purpose, and thus avoid unlikely, strained or absurd consequences which could result from a literal reading. . . ."

            To adopt the first of the above two alternatives and construe § 24,supra, as requiring elected officials to file reports covering only a twelve‑month period ending on the date of the particular report (or, in the initial case, the number of days elapsing between January 1, 1973 and the date of a given report) would manifestly lead to unnecessary and probably unintended confusion and lack of uniformity.  One official might file his first report on January 5, 1973, and cover only the first five days of that month, while another might wait until the January 31st deadline and then have to list all reportable transactions occurring during the entire month.  And then, a year later, the first official might wait until January 31, 1974 to report and by this device, totally eliminate from his second report any transactions occurring between January 5 and 31, 1973; while the second might report earlier and thus end up with an arbitrary overlap of the periods covered by the two reports.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 11]]

            In keeping with our duty to adopt a construction which makes an act sensible rather than absurd, we thus reject this view and, instead, construe § 24 of the present initiative as requiring the filing of reports of financial affairs by elected officials on a calendar month basis, rather than on an anniversary date basis.  Accordingly, we interpret the term "preceding twelve months" as used in this section as meaning the twelve calendar months preceding the month during which filing of the report is due.  In the case of elected officials filing as such, this means, of course, that since their reports are due "on or before January 31st" of each year, the reporting period ends on December 31 of the previous year; by the same token, in the case of candidates, the reporting period will end on the last day of the calendar month preceding the month during which their reports became due ‑ i.e., two weeks after becoming candidates.

            Of course, one may ask why, if the drafters of the initiative had intended that result they did not use the term "calendar year" instead of "preceding twelve months."  The answer is that, as just observed, the term "calendar year" would have been inept to express the filing requirements for "candidates," while the term "preceding twelve months" covers in a consistent manner both the filing requirements for elected officials and that for candidates.  Only the beginning and ending months of the twelve months' period will differ.

            Moreover, the construction which we have given to the term "preceding twelve months" as covering (in the initial case) the twelve‑month period ending December 31, 1973 will produce a further harmonious result.  Any elected official covered by § 24 (1),supra, who actually holds office at any time in January of 1974, or in any subsequent January, will thereby be required to file the subject report for the previous calendar year in which he held office.  He cannot avoid that duty by resigning or otherwise going out of office on January 2, or January 24, or any other time after December 31 of the year for which the report is due.  By contrast, a conclusion that such officials could file their reports on any January date in any year and cover only the twelve‑month period immediately preceding the actual filing day each year, would make it possible for an official going out of office at the end of a term expiring in mid-January (as most now do at both the state and local level) to completely avoid the filing of any report for his last year in office by simply failing to file before thus leaving office.

            From these two conclusions ‑ i.e., that § 24 is not retrospective and that the reporting period covered thereby ends on the last day of the calendar month preceding the  [[Orig. Op. Page 12]] due date of the report ‑ it, of course, follows, in direct answer to your second question, that no elected officials will be requiredas such (rather than as candidates) to file any reports under that section of the initiative until January of 1974.  Candidates, including elected officials who become candidates, will, on the other hand, have to file partial year reports for those completed calendar months falling between January 1, 1973 and the time they became candidates.  And, in addition, those "elected officials" who are also covered by the reporting requirements of RCW 42.21.060, supra (the 1965 financial disclosure act for state officials) will have to file under that act as before, for calendar year 1972, because of not filing a report for that period under the initiative.  Cf., § 24 (3), supra.

            We are fully satisfied that this result accords fully with the intent of the framers of this initiative.  In addition to everything else we have said in its support, strong evidence that these framers did not anticipate the filing of January, 1973 reports by elected officials is to be found in a point noted in our response to your first question.  As we there said, the drafters of the initiative clearly and unambiguously expressed their intention that the reports required by § 24 are to be filed ". . . with the commission . . ."  Additionally, § 36 provides in pertinent part that the commission shall:

            "(1) Develop and provide forms for the reports and statements required to be made under this act;"

            In other words, the provisions of the initiative, when read together, disclose an intention on the part of the lawmaking body that the commission would be in existence and operative at the time it received the first reports required by § 24,supra.  However, it will now be recalled that § 35, supra, provides for the appointment of the commission members by the governor as follows:

            ". . .  The original members shall be appointed within sixty days after the effective date of this act. . . ."

            The lawmaking body was thus aware that the commission, although theoretically "in existence" by operation of law on January 1, 1973, conceivably might not be operative at all until as late as March 2 of that year.

            Accordingly, by allowing the governor this period of time to make his appointments, both the framers and lawmakers must have regarded its earlier existence as being unnecessary ‑  [[Orig. Op. Page 13]] presumably for the reasons above indicated.

            Question (3):

            The final question to be considered in this opinion is as follows:

            "If a person holds two or more elected offices, each of which would require him as the holder to file a report under § 24 of the initiative, must he file a separate report for each such office?"

            We answer this question in the negative.  Nothing in § 24 expressly requires an individual to file a separate statement for each office held by him.  Furthermore, no such requirement may be implied, in our opinion.  Section 24 does not even require that the individual filing the statement must mention the office or offices which he holds.  (However, an elected official is expressly permitted to volunteer such information.  Furthermore, the commission has power to require such futher information under § 24 (1) (l).

            This is not to say that there are no circumstances under which an elected official may be required to file two separate reports covering parts or all of the same period.  If an elected official becomes a "candidate" as defined in § 2 (5),supra,6/ either for reelection or for some other office, he will then be required to file a separate report as such which may well overlap some portion of a period for which he has already reported as an elected official.  We find nothing in § 24 which would excuse such an individual from filing a full report as a candidate simply because certain aspects of this report may have been previously covered by a report filed as an elected official.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 14]]

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,


SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


ROBERT F. HAUTH
Senior Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/We have selected these questions for immediate response because of their relative urgency in view of the January 1, 1973, effective date of this initiative.  We will, however, continue to process your remaining questions and advise you as to our conclusions on them when they have been reached.

2/See, §§ 3-14.

3/See, §§ 15-23.

4/See, §§ 25-34.

5/See AGO 59-60 No. 18 [[to Dale M. Nordquist, State Senator on February 27, 1959]]and authorities cited therein.

6/This subsection states that:

            ". . .  An individual shall be deemed to seek election when he first:

            "(a) Receives contributions or makes expenditures or reserves space or facilities with intent to promote his candidacy for office; or

            "(b) Announces publicly or files for office."

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