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AGO 1975 No. 8 - April 29, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- DIRECTOR DISTRICTS ‑- BOUNDARIES ‑- VOLUNTARY CHANGE OF RESIDENCE FROM ONE DIRECTOR DISTRICT TO ANOTHER ‑- VACANCY

In a school district which has been divided into school director districts under RCW 28A.57.050, a school director's voluntary change of his place of residence and voting registration from one director district to another within the school district disqualifies him from continuing to serve for the remainder of the term for which he was elected because of the continuing qualification provisions now contained in RCW 28A.57.318.

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                                                                   April 29, 1975

Honorable Robert F. Patrick
Prosecuting Attorney
Whitman County
P.O. Box 30
Colfax, Washington 99111

                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1975 No. 8

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent request for an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            In a school district which has been divided into school director districts under RCW 28A.57.050, does a school director's voluntary change of his place of residence and voting registration from one director district to another within the school district disqualify him from continuing to serve for the remainder of the term for which he was elected?

            We answer this question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                    ANALYSIS

            As you have noted in your letter, precisely this same question was previously considered by this office, and answered in the negative, in AGO 1969 No. 10 [[to R. DeWitt Jones, Prosecuting Attorney Clark County on May 27, 1969]].  However, at that time the only statute to be considered in dealing with the question was so much of RCW 42.12.010 as states that:

            "Every office shall become vacant on the happening of either of the following events before the expiration of the term of such officer. . . . fourth, his ceasing to be an inhabitant of the district, county, town or village for which he shall have been elected or appointed, or within which the duties of his office are to be discharged; . . ."

            After noting this statute, we there observed that

            ". . .  A school director is not merely an officer of his director district ‑ any more than a county commissioner is of his commissioner district.  Therefore, a school director, by moving his place of residence from one director district to another (for whatever reason) remains just as much a resident of the school district

            "'. . . for which he shall have been elected or appointed, or within which the duties of his office are to be discharged. . . .'

            "as does a county commissioner remain a resident of his county under like circumstances."1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The reason that we now believe it necessary to reverse this prior opinion relative to school directors is that, as you have pointed out in your letter, the legislature has since enacted a statute, RCW 28A.57.318, which provides as follows:

            "Directors of school districts shall be elected at regular school elections.  No person shall be eligible to the office of school director who is not a citizen of the United States and the state of Washington and a registered voter of either the school district or director district, as the case may be."  (Emphasis supplied.)2/

             By virtue of this enactment, the situation of school directors in a school district which has been divided into director districts is, essentially, analogous to that of the members of a county board of education which was considered by this office in AGO 63-64 No. 17 [[to Lincoln E. Shropshire, Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County on April 16, 1963]], copy enclosed.  The statute which was there involved, RCW 28.20.020, then provided that:

            "Every member of the county board of education shall be a qualified voter and a legal resident of the district for which he files, and shall not be an employee of any school district.  Every member elected shall take the oath of office required of county officials.  The members of the county board shall not be required to give bond."

            Because of this statute we concluded in our opinion that a member of the county board of education disqualifies himself from holding that office by changing his residence from the board member district from which he was elected to another board member district (and school district) in which another member of the board resides.

            AGO 63-64 No. 17,supra, was noted in our more recent, 1969, opinion regarding school directors, AGO 1969 No. 10,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]supra, but was therein distinguished, on page 5, as follows:

            "A more recent opinion of this office ‑ AGO 63-64 No. 17, relating to members of a county board of education ‑ is distinguishable from the matter at hand.  In that 1963 opinion (copy enclosed), we advised that a member of a county board of education would disqualify himself from continuing to hold that office by changing his residence from the board member district from which he was elected to another board member district (and school district) in which another member of the county board resided.  However, there ‑ unlike here ‑ we had a statute which was regarded as prescribing a continuing residential qualification for office. . . ."

            With the subsequent enactment of RCW 28A.57.318, supra, however, that distinction appears no longer to have any validity.  Instead, the reasoning of AGO 63-64 No. 17, supra, itself now seems to be applicable to the question you have posed.  Therefore, relying on that reasoning our direct answer to your question must be, at this time, in the affirmative.  In a school district which has been divided into school director districts under RCW 28A.57.050, a school director's voluntary change of his place of residence and voting registration from one director district to another within the school districtdoes disqualify him from continuing to serve for the remainder of the term for which he was elected.

            In so concluding, however, we nevertheless adhere to another previous opinion, AGO 59-60 No. 25 [[to John J. Lally, Prosecuting Attorney, Spokane County on March 25, 1959]], copy enclosed, in which we advised that the term of office of a duly elected and qualified school director is not affected by a redistricting resolution changing the boundaries of school director districts.  Accord,State ex rel. O'Connell v. Nelson, 7 Wash. 114, 34 Pac. 562 (1893), in which the court held that a duly elected and qualified county road  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] overseer who was a resident and elector of the road district in which he was elected at the time of his election did not become disqualified to hold office by reason of the fact that the county commissioners thereafter changed the boundaries of the road district so as to place his residence in another road district.

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

Very truly yours,


SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Accord, an earlier opinion dated July 10, 1940, to the prosecuting attorney of Spokane county advising that a county commissioner does not vacate his office by moving his place of residence from the commissioner district in which he resided at the time of his election to another commissioner district in the same county.

2/Section 28A.57.318, chapter 223, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess.

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