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AGO 1961 No. 82 - December 07, 1961
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- FIRST CLASS ‑- POLICE OFFICERS ‑- PENSION RIGHTS.

Where members of the police force of a first class city are paid a basic salary by virtue of the position held, plus an amount based upon longevity, such longevity pay is not to be considered in establishing the amount of pensions to be paid upon retirement under the provisions of § 1, chapter 191, Laws of 1961.

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                                                                December 7, 1961

Honorable James Keefe
State Senator, Third District
412 West Glass Street
Spokane, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 82

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Where members of the police force in a first class city are paid a basic salary by virtue of the position held, plus an amount based upon longevity, is such longevity pay to be considered in establishing the amount of pension to be paid upon retirement under the provisions of § 1, chapter 191, Laws of 1961?

            We answer your question in the negative, for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 191, Laws of 1961, amending § 4, chapter 39, Laws of 1909, as last amended by § 3, chapter 78, Laws of 1959, and RCW 41.20.050 provides in pertinent part as follows:

            "Whenever a person has been duly appointed, and has served honorably for a period of twenty-five years or more, as a member, in any capacity, of the regularly constituted police department of a city subject to the provisions of this chapter, the board, after hearing, if one is requested in writing, may order and direct that such person be retired, and the board shall retire any member so entitled, upon his written request therefor.   [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] The member so retired hereafter shall be paid from the fund during his lifetime a pension equal to fifty percent of the amount of salary at any time hereafter attached to the position held by the retired member for the year preceding the date of his retirement:  PROVIDED, That no pension shall exceed an amount equivalent to one‑half the salary of captain, and all existing pensions shall be increased to not less than one hundred fifty dollars per month as of July 1, 1957."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            By § 1, of the aforesaid chapter 78, Laws of 1959, the term "position" was defined to mean "the particular employment held at any particular time, which may or may not be the same as civil service rank."

            This definition was not affected by chapter 191, Laws of 1961.  Nor, for that matter, did § 1, chapter 191, Laws of 1961,supra, change § 3, chapter 78, Laws of 1959,in so far as is material to the instant question.  All that this 1961 amendment did was to provide forfuture increases in pensions in the event the salary attached to the position previously held by the retiree is increased subsequent to his retirement.

            Your question arises because, as you report, in the city of Spokane police officers are paid a basic salary plus a payment for longevity.  The longevity payment is computed by taking a certain percentage of the basic salary of a patrolman, depending upon the number of years of service.

            In other words, the monthly remuneration paid to members of the Spokane police force includes (1) the basic salary then attached to the position held by the recipient,payable to all persons holding the same position, and (2), where applicable, an additional amount based upon prescribed periods of service,payable regardless of position to all persons having similar periods of service.

            Thus phrasing the factual situation, we believe that the answer to your question is self-evident; namely, that pursuant to the plain, clear and unambiguous language used by the legislature in the pertinent portion of § 1, chapter 191, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 41.20.050), supra, (1) the basis to be used in determining the amount of pension to be paid to a retiree is the basic salary attached to the position which he held for the year preceding the date of his retirement, (2) provided that such pension shall not exceed one‑half of the basic  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] salary attached to the position of captain.  Such additional compensation as may be paid to particular members of the police department, without regard to position, because of the particular member's period of service, is simply not the salary attached to a position.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Assistant Attorney General

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