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AGO 1964 No. 104 - May 21, 1964
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- DRAINAGE ‑- WARRANTS ‑- ISSUANCE ‑- COUNTY AUDITOR.

Drainage district commissioners may not issue warrants independently of the county auditor's office.  The commissioners authorize the issuance of warrants but the mechanical procedure of issuance must be performed by the county auditor.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   May 21, 1964

Honorable Herbert E. Wieland
Prosecuting Attorney
Pacific County
431 Second
Raymond, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 104

Dear Sir:

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

            May drainage district commissioners issue warrants of the district independently of the county auditor's office?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Originally, § 25, chapter 115, Laws of 1895, presently codified as RCW 85.06.250, conferred upon the board of commissioners of drainage districts the authority to issue drainage district warrants.  The wording of that statute is as follows:

            "The board of commissioners of such district shall elect one of their number chairman and one secretary, and shall keep minutes of all their proceedings, and may issue warrants of such district in payment of all claims of indebtedness against such district, such warrants shall be in form and substance the same as county warrants, or as near the same as may be practicable, and shall draw the legal rate of interest from the date of their presentation to the treasurer for payment, as hereinafter  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] provided, and shall be signed by the chairman and attested by the secretary of said board:  Provided, That no warrants shall be issued by said board of commissioners in payment of any indebtedness of such district for less than the face or par value."

            Subsequently, however, the legislature enacted § 1, chapter 74, Laws of 1915, later codified as RCW 36.22.090, reading as follows:

            "All warrants for the payment of claims against diking, ditch, drainage and irrigation districts and school districts of the second and third class shall be drawn and issued by the county auditor of the county wherein such district is located, upon vouchers properly approved by the respective commissioners, trustees or directors of such district."1/

             There is, in our opinion, an irreconcilable conflict between these two statutes.  The earlier statute obviously contemplated the physical act of issuing all drainage district warrants as a function of the drainage district commissioners and such warrants were to be signed by the chairman and attested by the secretary of the board.  There was no provision for the drawing and issuing of any such warrants by any other officer.  The later act, § 1, chapter 74, Laws of 1915, supra, specifically related to drainage district warrants as well as the warrants of other political subdivisions, and directed the drawing and issuance of "all" such warrants by the county auditor.  The authorization for the physical or mechanical procedure of drawing and issuing the warrants was to be found in the execution of approved vouchers by the drainage district commissioners.

            It has been generally stated that repeals by implication are not favored in the law, and that when two or more statutory provisions relate to the same subject matter they should be construed, wherever possible, to give effect to both.  However, if the statutes prescribing different and inconsistent actions relating to the same matter are actually in conflict, the later statute prevails.  See,In re Sanford, 10 Wn. (2d) 686, 118 P. (2d) 179  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] (1941), andBecket v. Hutchinson, 49 Wn. (2d) 888, 308 P. (2d) 235 (1957).  In our opinion, therefore, the earlier law directing the drainage district commissioners to perform the physical act of drawing and issuing warrants, was repealed by the later act, § 1, chapter 74, Laws of 1915, supra, which provided that that function was to be performed by the county auditor, "upon vouchers properly approved by the . . . commissioners, . . ."

            Subsequent to the passage of the 1915 act, which vested in the county auditor exclusive authority to issue the warrants, there were later enactments which apparently by their terms conferred authority upon drainage district commissioners to issue warrants under certain conditions.  Some of these statutes are now codified as RCW 85.05.270, 85.06.650, 85.06.710, and 85.32.130.  For instance, RCW 85.05.270, supra, provides in pertinent part that "in case of an emergency the commissioners may incur additional obligations and issue warrants therefor in excess of the estimate."

            RCW 85.06.650,supra, provides that "to pay for any work done under RCW 85.06.640 through 85.06.700 . . . the commissioners of said district . . . may issue warrants of such district redeemable by levies which shall be added to the annual cost of the maintenance of said system . . ."

            Similar language is found in RCW 85.06.710, supra.  However, the obvious key to the legislative intention is found in the language of RCW 85.32.130, a similar statute reading as follows:

            "In the case of an emergency or disaster not in contemplation at the time of making the annual estimate of costs and declared to be such by resolution of the board, the board may incur additional obligations and issue valid warrants therefor in excess of such estimatein the manner provided by law for issuance of warrants by drainage districts and the servicing thereof, and all such warrants so issued shall be valid as shown upon the then current roll of said district filled with the county auditor."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            It is fundamental, of course, that the object of construing statutes is to ascertain the intention of the legislature.  Cory  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] v. Nethery, 19 Wn. (2d) 326, 142 P. (2d) 488 (1943).  In cases of this kind, both the objective and the means of attaining it are found inState v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 684-685, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949):

            ". . . Statutes inpari materia are those which relate to the same person or thing, or the same class of persons or things; and in construing a statute, or statutes, all acts relating to the same subject matter or having the same purpose, should be read in connection therewith as together constituting one law.  The object of the rule is to ascertain and carry into effect the intent of the legislature, and it proceeds upon the supposition that the several statutes having to do with related subject matters were governed by one spirit or policy, and were intended to be consistent and harmonious in their several parts and provisions.  State ex rel. American Piano Co. v. Superior Court, 105 Wash. 676, 178 Pac. 827;Paltro v. Aetna Cas. & Surety Co., 119 Wash. 101, 204 Pac. 1044."

            While the words "draw" and "issue," as used in the 1915 act, are sometimes used synonymously (see, Richland County v. Owens, 92 S.C. 329, 75 S.E. 549 (1912)), the word "draw" usually connotes preparation of a voucher as distinguished from issuing and delivering it.  See,State ex rel. Attorney General v. Broadaway, 192 Ark. 634, 93 S.W. (2d) 1248, 1254 (1936).  See, also, Black's Law Dictionary, 4th ed., defining the word draw as:

            "To prepare a draft; . . ."

            Thus, while both words were used in describing the duties of the county auditor with reference to warrants, the subsequent statutes relating to the function of the drainage district commissioners merely authorize theissuance of warrants in certain cases.  In our opinion, the legislature, in conferring such authority upon drainage district commissioners, merely authorized them to "issue" warrants in the general sense; i.e., causing warrants to be issued according to the usual procedure.  Given such a construction, the later statutes would be consistent with the 1915 statute relating to the duties of the auditor in drawing and issuing warrants.  That construction  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] finds support in the decisions of courts of other states indicating that the word "issue" has various meanings and that the "issuance" of negotiable instruments sometimes relates to authorization rather than the execution and deliverance of the instrument.  See,Hooker v. East Riverside Irrigation Dist., 38 Cal.App. 615, 177 Pac. 184, 185 (1919); Schumacher v. City of Flint, 252 Mich. 1, 232 N.W. 406 (1930);Bryan v. District Trustees of District # 16, Harris County (Texas) 254 S.W. 1034, 1035 (1923); and Dingman v. City of Council Bluffs, 249 Iowa 1121, 90 N.W. (2d) 742 (1958).

            Bearing in mind the rule cited earlier in this opinion, that repeals by implication are not favored in law, we are required to give effect to both the 1915 act and the later statutes on the subject of drainage district warrants, in so far as possible.  In view of the possible various meanings that may be attributed to the words in question, we find no such irreconcilable conflict between these statutes which would warrant an interpretation that some warrants are to be issued by the board and others by the county auditor.

            We conclude, therefore, that the board of commissioners of a drainage district has no legal authority to issue warrants independently of the county auditor's office; that both the drainage district commissioners and the county auditor have a function to perform in the issuance of drainage district warrants; that is, they are "issued" in the sense of being authorized by the drainage district commissioners and actually "drawn" and "issued" (prepared and delivered) by the county auditor's office.

            We trust this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT F. HAUTH
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/The language of this statute is substantially the same as the re‑enacted [[reenacted]]version of RCW 36.22.090.  See, chapter 4, Laws of 1963.

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