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AGO 1963 No. 24 - May 21, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- AGENCIES ‑- SUPERVISING OFFICIAL OR GOVERNING BODY ‑- AUTHORITY TO EXECUTE GROUP DISABILITY INSURANCE CONTRACTS FOR EMPLOYEES ‑- NONDELEGABLE.

Under chapter 75, Laws of 1963, the authority granted to the supervising official or governing body of any department, division or separate agency of state government to provide for hospitalization and medical aid for their employees and dependents through contracts with insurance carriers or health care contractors may not be delegated to the trustee appointed by the governor.

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                                                                   May 21, 1963

Honorable P. V. Robe
Director, Department of Personnel
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 24

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Would it be legal under chapter 75, Laws of 1963, for a trustee designated by the governor to enter into a contract or contracts of group disability insurance on behalf of all state employees and their dependents?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 75, Laws of 1963,1/ provides as follows:

            "Any department, division, or separate agency of the state government, and any county, municipality or other political subdivision of the stateacting through its principal supervising official or governing body may, whenever funds shall be available for that purpose, provide for all or a part of hospitalization and medical  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] aid for its employees and their dependents through contracts with regularly constituted insurance carriers or with health care service contractors as defined in chapter 48.44 RCW, for group hospitalization and medical aid policies or plans:  PROVIDED, That the contributions of any department, division or separate agency of the state government and school districts shall be limited to not to exceed fifty percent of any premium therefor, or five dollars per month per employee covered, whichever is less except that such limitation shall not apply to employees employed under chapter 47.64 RCW.

 

            "The cost of any such group policy or plan to any such public agency or body shall be deemed additional compensation to the employees covered thereby for services rendered, and any officer authorized to disburse such funds may pay in whole or in part to any such insurance carrier or health care service contractor the amount of the premiums due pursuant to any such contract."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            This statute, as applicable to state employees, authorizes anydepartment, division orseparate agency of state government acting through itsprincipal official or governing body to provide for hospitalization and medical aid for its employees and their dependents through contracts with insurance carriers or health care contractors.

            It is fundamental that when a statute requires a public officer to exercise his discretion, such public officer cannot redelegate his authority.  Harning v. City of Duluth, 224 Minn. 299, 28 N.W. (2d) 659 (1947); State ex rel. West v. City of Seattle, 161 Wash. Dec. 656 (1963) [[61 Wn.2d 658]].2/   In our opinion the above quoted statute requires the exercise of judgment and discretion.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Accordingly, it is our opinion that this authority and its attendant responsibility cannot be redelegated to a trustee designated by the governor, but must be exercised by the principal official or governing body of the several departments, divisions or separate agencies of state government.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

BASIL L. BADLEY
Assistant Attorney General

R. TED BOTTIGER
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/This act becomes effective June 13, 1963.

2/In State ex rel. West v. City of Seattle,supra, our supreme court considered the question of whether an appointing authority who had the responsibility under the Seattle city charter to discharge employees could delegate that responsibility to a subordinate employee.  The court held that he could not delegate such responsibility nor could he by later ratification or acquiescence make the discharge his own.  See, also,State ex rel. West v. Seattle, 50 Wn. (2d) 94, 309 P. (2d) 751 (1957).

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