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AGO 1964 No. 93 - March 27, 1964
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COUNTIES ‑- COMMISSIONERS ‑- AUTHORITY TO FIX DAYS AND HOURS OF COUNTY OFFICERS ‑- EXCEPTIONS.

The board of county commissioners of each of the counties in the state has the authority under state law to fix the days and hours that county offices shall be open; therefore the commissioners may establish by ordinance or resolution that county offices will be closed on any Friday or Monday when a county legal holiday falls on a weekend.  However, the clerk's office and sheriff's office must remain open on all judicial days.

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                                                                  March 27, 1964

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County-City Building
Seattle, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 93

Dear Sir:

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

            Does a board of county commissioners have the authority, when a legal holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, to establish an alternative day, such as the Friday before the legal holiday, as a substitute or additional holiday for county offices?

            We answer your question in the affirmative, as qualified in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            It is well established that boards of county commissioners have only the powers granted to them expressly by statute, and such powers as are necessarily implied from those expressly granted.  SeePacific First Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Pierce County, 27 Wn.2d 347, 178 P.2d 351 (1947).

            RCW 1.16.050 provides as follows:

            "The following are legal holidays: Sunday; the first day of January, commonly called New Year's Day; the twelfth day of February, being the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln; the twenty-second day of February, being the anniversary of the birth of George Washington; the thirtieth day of May, commonly known as Memorial Day; the fourth day of July, being the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; the first Monday in September, to be known as Labor Day; the twelfth day of October, to be known as Columbus Day; the eleventh day of November, to be known as Veterans' Day; the twenty-fifth day of December, commonly called Christmas Day; the day on which any general election is held throughout the state; and any day designated by public proclamation of the chief executive of the state as a legal holiday, or as a day of thanksgiving.

            "Whenever any legal holiday, other than Sunday, falls upon a Sunday, the following Monday shall be a legal holiday."

            This statute does not directly apply to county offices.  In AGO 53-55 No. 291 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, King County on August 2, 1954]], an opinion addressed to your office dated August 2, 1954, we said:

            "Although there is no legal compulsion upon such boards [of county commissioners], it seems apparent that the statute was intended to constitute an expression of the public policy of the state as a whole.  For the sake of uniformity, practically all political subdivisions do observe these holidays, even though in many cases the matter is discretionary with their governing body. . . ."

            As indicated in that opinion, there appears to be no statutory provision expressly granting or denying county commissioners the power to declare county holidays.  However, RCW 36.16.100 provides as follows:

            "All county and precinct offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business during suchdays and hours as the board of county commissioners shall by resolution prescribe."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Our search discloses no previously issued opinions of this office, formal or informal, on the precise question you ask, or even  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] construing RCW 36.16.100,supra, since its amendment in 1955.  The statute as it presently reads seems sufficiently clear to warrant the result reached without resort to construction.  However, a brief outline of the legislative history of this statute, and the manner in which previous versions of it have been construed by this office, may be helpful in eliminating any doubts as to legislative intent.

            A forerunner of the statute was § 1, chapter 113, Laws of 1941, which provided as follows:

            "All elective and appointive officers of this state and its political subdivisions shall keep their offices open for the transaction of business from nine (9) o'clock a.m. to five (5) o'clock p.m. of each business day, except that any such officer may, during the months of June, July, and August, open his office at eight (8) o'clock a.m. and close the same at four (4) o'clock p.m.  On Saturday, such offices may be closed at one (1) o'clock p.m."

            In an informal opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Lewis county dated June 19, 1947, we construed that earlier statute to mean:

            "The statute clearly makes it mandatory that county offices be opened at 9:00 A.M. except during June, July and August, when they may be opened at 8:00 A.M.  The decision as to whether a particular office opens at 8:00 A.M. or 9:00 A.M. lies within the administrative discretion of the county official in charge, since the earlier hour is merely permissive, but the office must be open in any event at 9:00 A.M.  It is our opinion that the county offices may be opened at 8:00 A.M. on Saturday in order to have a uniform opening hour throughout the week if the county officials so desire, but that the act requires that the offices be open at 9:00 A.M.  It does provide, however, that they must remain open until 1:00 P.M. on Saturday."

            In an informal opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Pacific county dated June 2, 1949, we further pointed out that with reference to daylight saving time, the county commissioners had no authority to determine during what hours the offices of other elective officials should be open.  Thereafter, the legislature enacted chapter 100, Laws of 1951, dividing § 1, chapter 113, Laws of 1941,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] into several sections and adding a new section.  Sections 1 and 2, chapter 100, Laws of 1951, then provided in pertinent part as follows:

            Section 1.

            "All county and precinct offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business during such hours as the board of county commissioners shall by resolution prescribe."

            Section 2.

            "All city and town offices shall be kept open for the transaction of business during such hours as the municipal legislative authority shall by ordinance prescribe."

            Thus, for the first time, county commissioners were given the authority to prescribe office hours for all county offices.

            The next opinion relevant to the issue was AGO 51-53 No. 49 [[to Superior Court Judges Association on May 28, 1951]]to the secretary and treasurer of the Superior Court Judges Association, dated May 28, 1951.  The question asked there was whether county clerks had authority to close their offices on Saturday pursuant to a resolution of the county commissioners enacted under chapter 100, Laws of 1951, supra.  In answering the question in the negative, we concluded that chapter 100, Laws of 1951,supra, did not apply to officers of the courts.  Significantly, there seemed to be even at that time a feeling that other county offices could be kept open on such hours and days as might be prescribed by resolution of the county commissioners.

            August 2, 1954, this office issued AGO 53-55 No. 291, supra, concluding, at least inferentially, that under chapter 100, Laws of 1951, supra, a board of county commissioners had the discretion to determine whether or not legal holidays observed by the state should also be observed by a particular county.

            Perhaps in an effort to resolve all doubts on any of these questions raised in attempting to construe the 1951 statute, the legislature finally enacted chapter 9, Laws of 1955, Ex. Sess., amending both §§ 1 and 2 of the 1951 statute to include the word "days" as set forth above.

            In our opinion, the present wording of the statute, as well as its legislative history, clearly indicates the legislative intent that it should be in the discretion of each board of county commissioners  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] as to what days and hours the offices of the county would be open for business.  This would include authority to observe some, but not all, of the state's legal holidays, and also authority to go a step farther and observe holidays in addition to those observed by the state offices.

            The application or nonapplication of this opinion to county officers who are also considered officers of the court, such as the clerk and sheriff, presents a distinct problem.  In an opinion to the secretary of state (AGO 1927-28:134) dated July 28, 1927 [[1927-28 OAG 134 to J. Grant Hinkle, Secretary of State]], we concluded that the offices of the clerk and sheriff were required to be kept open on all judicial days.  Again, in AGO 51-53 No. 49,supra, we pointed out that the county clerk was definitely an officer of the court and that the statutory discretion vested in boards of county commissioners did not apply to the office of county clerk, who was required to keep his office open on all judicial days from 8:00 to 12:00 before noon, and from 1:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, pursuant to the provisions of a separate statute.

            That statute, however,1/ was expressly repealed in § 2, chapter 113, Laws of 1941, and was replaced by section 1 of the same chapter, quoted earlier in this opinion.  But throughout the legislative history of what is now RCW 36.16.100, supra, the legislature has continued to express its intent that officers of the court should hold their offices open on judicial days.  Section 3, chapter 9, Laws of 1955, Ex. Sess., now provides as follows (codified as RCW 42.04.060):

            "All state elective and appointive officers shall keep their offices open for the transaction of business from eight o'clock a.m., to five o'clock p.m. of each business day from Monday through Friday, holidays excepted.  On Saturday, such offices may be closed.

            "This section shall not apply to the courts of record of this stateor to their officers nor to the office of the attorney general and the lieutenant governor."  (Emphasis supplied)

            In our opinion, the present statute should be read in connection with other statutes as well as constitutional provisions on the  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] same subject.  SeeConnick v. The City of Chehalis, 53 Wn.2d 288, 333 P.2d 647 (1958).  Article IV, § 6 (Amendment 28) of the state constitution and RCW 2.08.030 each provide that the superior courts "shall always be open, except on nonjudicial days."  Article IV, § 26, expressly makes the county clerk, by virtue of his office, clerk of the superior court.  The duties of the superior court clerk (cf. RCW 2.32.050 and Title 4 RCW) make his presence necessary to the operation of the superior court.  Similarly, RCW 36.28.010 requires the sheriff to "attend the sessions of the courts of record held within the county, and obey their lawful orders or directions."

            Thus, it is our opinion that the discretion vested in boards of county commissioners by RCW 36.16.100 is subject to the clearly implied exception that must be read into the statute by reason of constitutional and statutory provisions relating expressly to court officers.

            We conclude, therefore, that where a legal holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, boards of county commissioners have the authority to establish an alternative day, such as the Friday before or the Monday after the legal holiday, as a holiday for county offices.  This conclusion does not mean that county commissioners may permit court officers, such as the county clerk and sheriff, to close their offices on judicial days.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT F. HAUTH
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/§ 2, chapter 57, Laws of 1891.

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