OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION ‑- ELECTION OR APPOINTMENT OF COMMISSION MEMBER TO ANY OTHER STATE, COUNTY OR MUNICIPAL OFFICE.
A member of the state parks and recreation commission may not be appointed or elected to any other state, county or municipal office without disqualifying himself for his office on the commission.
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April 23, 1962
Honorable Clayton Anderson
Director, State Parks and
522 South Franklin
Cite as: AGO 61-62 No. 121
By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
May a member of the state parks and recreation commission, without disqualifying himself to hold said office, be elected or appointed to any other state, county or municipal office?
We answer the question in the negative.
The general law governing operation and administration of the state parks and recreation commission is found, as codified, in chapter 43.51 RCW. The commission consists of seven electors of this state appointed by the governor pursuant to the provisions of RCW 43.51.020. This statute reads as follows:
"There is hereby created a 'state parks and recreation commission' consisting of seven electors of the state. The members of the commission, except three, shall be appointed by the governor by and with the advice and consent of the senate and shall serve for a term of six years, expiring on December 31st of even-numbered years: Provided, That of the members first appointed, one shall be [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] appointed for a term of two years, one for a term of four years, and two each for a term of six years. Three members may be elected state officials and shall be appointed by the governor and serve during the terms for which they were elected.
"In making the appointments to the commission, the governor shall choose electors who understand park and recreation needs and interests. No person, except the three state officials mentioned herein shall be appointed if he holds any elective or appointive state, county, or municipal office. Members of the commission shall be entitled to be paid a per diem of fifteen dollars, except that no public official shall receive a per diem, for each day actually spent on duties pertaining to the commission, and in addition shall be allowed their expenses incurred while absent from their usual places of residence upon the same basis as expenses are payable to state officials and employees.
"Payment of per diem and expenses, and all other expenses pertaining to the operation of the commission, shall be made upon vouchers certified to by such persons as shall be designated by the commission."
It is obvious from the express language of the statute that the governor may not appoint to the commission any person who holds any elective or appointive state, county, or municipal office (excepting, of course, three state officials). Your question is intended to go beyond the express words of the statute. You desire to know whether the statute is also to be construed as imposing a continuing qualification for the office of member of the state parks and recreation commission so as to bar existing members of the commission from future election or appointment to another state, county, or municipal office while continuing to serve as a member of the state parks and recreation commission.
At the outset, it seems to us that the basic question presented is whether the statute is to be read strictly as a limitation on the governor's power of appointment or whether the statute is to be read more broadly as imposing a qualification for membership on the commission.
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
We are of the opinion that the statute should be construed as imposing a continuing qualification for office rather than simply as a restriction upon the governor's power of appointment. It is a well-established principle that to correctly understand any statute, inquiry must first be made to ascertain its subject and the general object intended to be accomplished by it. When this is done, words subject to a possible narrow construction may be expanded to embrace the legislative intent and to effectuate that intent. State ex rel. Blume v. Yelle, 52 Wn. (2d) 158, 162, 324 P. (2d) 247 (1958);Howlett v. Cheetham, 17 Wash. 626, 630, 50 Pac. 522 (1897).
The subject and general object of RCW 43.51.020 is apparent from an examination of its legislative history. The state parks and recreation commission is the successor to the original five‑member park commission established in 1913. That commission was composed of five members, four of which were elected state officials. Section 1, chapter 113, Laws of 1913. In 1921, membership was reduced to three, all elected officials, § 10, chapter 7, Laws of 1921. In 1945, membership was increased to five, all elected officials. Section 1, chapter 36, Laws of 1945. The present provisions of RCW 43.51.020 came into existence as a result of § 1, chapter 271, Laws of 1947, which provides that no person shall be appointed to the commission (except three elected state officials) if that person holds any elective or appointive state, county, or municipal office. As our supreme court noted in State ex rel. Blume v. Yelle, supra (p. 165):
"Thus the legislature has taken control of state parks away from public office holders and placed it in the hands of qualified electors who are laymen. . . ."
We agree that the subject and general object of the 1947 statute was to take control of state parks from public office holders. This being so, we are convinced that the statute must be read as a qualification for office rather than solely as the restriction on the governor's power to appoint members to the state parks and recreation commission. Of course, qualification for office must exist not only at the commencement of the term of office but must continue during the continuance of the term itself. State ex rel. Reynolds v. Howell, 70 Wash. 467, 126 Pac. 954 (1912); State ex rel. Pennick v. Hall, 26 Wn. (2d) 172, 175, 173 P. (2d) 153 (1946).
In summary, it is the opinion of this office that a member of the state parks and recreation commission may not, without disqualifying himself for his office on the commission, be appointed or elected to any other state, county, or municipal office.
[[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
JOHN J. O'CONNELL
H. T. HARTINGER
Assistant Attorney General