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AGO 1984 No. 9 - March 06, 1984
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY ‑- COMMISSIONERS ‑- SHERIFF ‑- SALARIES OR COMPENSATION ‑- AUTHORITY TO FIX SALARIES OF DEPUTY SHERIFFS 

RCW 41.14.140 does not authorize, or empower, a county sheriff to fix the compensation of his deputies without regard to what the board of county commissioners might have determined.

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                                                                   March 6, 1984 

Honorable James P. McNally
Prosecuting Attorney
Pend Oreille County
P.O. Box 470
Newport, WA 99156

Cite as:  AGO 1984 No. 9                                                                                                                

 Dear Sir:

             By recent letter you requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

             Does RCW 41.14.140 authorize, or empower, a county sheriff to fix the compensation of his deputies, regardless of what the board of county commissioners might have determined?

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

                                                                      ANALYSIS

             RCW 41.14.140, which you have cited, is a part of the state law governing civil service for deputy sheriffs.  That law was originally enacted in 1958, as an initiative measure.  RCW 41.14.140, codifying § 14 of Initiative Measure No. 23, reads as follows:

             "All offices, places, positions, and employments coming within the purview of this chapter, shall be filled by the appointing power with the consent of the board of county commissioners, and nothing herein contained shall infringe upon such authority that an appointing power may  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] have to fix the salaries and compensation of all employees employed hereunder."

             See also, RCW 41.14.020(2) which defines the term "appointing power," for the purposes of the above‑quoted provisions, to mean,

             ". . . the county sheriff who is invested by law with power and authority to select, appoint, or employ any deputy, deputies or other necessary employees subject to civil service;"

             In addition, however, we find in the preexisting text of RCW 36.16.070 the following language:

             "In all cases where the duties of any county office are greater than can be performed by the person elected to fill it, the officer may employ deputies and other necessary employees with the consent of the board of county commissioners.  The board shall fix their compensation and shall require what deputies shall give bond and the amount of bond required from each.  The sureties or deputies' bonds must be approved by the board and the premium therefor is a county expense.

             "A deputy may perform any act which his principal is authorized to perform.  The officer appointing a deputy or other employee shall be responsible for the acts of his appointees upon his official bond and may revoke each appointment at pleasure."  (Emphasis supplied)

             These two statutes must be read together, and reconciled, in order to give full effect to each of them to the extent possible.  State ex rel. Reed v. Spanaway Water District, 38 Wn.2d 393, 229 P.2d 532 (1951) and cases cited therein.  With that in mind we next note that even on its face, RCW 41.14.140, supra, does not purport to affirmatively vest the county sheriff, as the appointing power, with the authority to fix the compensation of those personnel who he appoints.  Rather, that section of the civil service initiative merely says that whatever authority the appointing power may have, in that regard, is not to be impaired, or infringed upon, by ". . . anything herein contained."

             In turn, on that count, RCW 36.16.070, supra, seems to us to be plain, clear and unambiguous.  Once again it says, in speaking of those deputies and employees appointed, or employed, by a particular county officer, that:

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            ". . . The board shall fix their compensation . . ."

             We therefore conclude that it is the board of county commissioners, and not the county sheriff, which is lawfully empowered to fix the compensation of deputy sheriffs.

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

 Very truly yours,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Senior Deputy Attorney General

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