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AGO 1965 No. 40 - September 20, 1965
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- IRRIGATION ‑- AUDITING OFFICER ‑- CLAIMS ‑- AUTHENTICATION AND CERTIFICATION.

(1) Chapter 116, Laws of 1965, which provides for the authentication and certification of claims by the auditing officer of a municipality, supersedes the provisions of RCW 87.03.440, applicable to irrigation districts which would otherwise require verification of the claim on vouchers submitted by the claimant.

(2) Same:  The authentication and certification of claims, under chapter 116, Laws of 1965, must be made by a designated auditing officer and may not be performed instead by the board of directors of the irrigation district.

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

                                                              September 20, 1965

Honorable H. Maurice Ahlquist
Director, Department of Conservation
335 General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 40

Dear Sir:

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

            1. Does chapter 116, Laws of 1965 which provides for the authentication and certification of claims by the auditing officer of a municipality, supersede the provisions of RCW 87.03.440 applicable to irrigation districts, which would otherwise require verification of the claim on vouchers submitted by the claimant?

            2. May the audit required in § 1 of chapter 116 be carried out by the board of directors of an irrigation district instead of being performed by a separately designated auditing officer?

            We answer question 1 in the affirmative; question 2 in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The legislature at its last session enacted chapter 116, Laws of 1965, relating to claims against municipal corporations and political subdivisions.  Section 1 of this act reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "All claims presented against any county, city, district or other municipal corporation or political subdivision by persons furnishing materials, rendering services or performing labor, or for any other contractual purpose, shall be audited, before payment, by an auditing officer elected or appointed pursuant to statute or, in the absence of statute, an appropriate charter provision, ordinance or resolution of the municipal corporation or political subdivision.  Such claims shall be prepared for audit and payment on a form and in the manner prescribed by the division of municipal corporations in the state auditor's office.  The form shall provide for the authentication and certification by such auditing officer that the materials have been furnished, the services rendered or the labor performed as described, and that the claim is a just, due and unpaid obligation against the municipal corporation or political subdivision; and no claim shall be paid without such authentication and certification:  PROVIDED, That the certificates as to claims of officers and employees of a county, city, district or other municipal corporation or political subdivision, for services rendered, shall be made by the person charged with the duty of preparing and submitting vouchers for the payment of services, and he shall certify that the claim is just, true and unpaid, which certificate shall be part of the voucher."

            This statute by its terms applies to each and every municipal corporation and to all political subdivisions of this state.  It reflects an apparent intent on the part of the legislature to place municipalities and political subdivisions, on a uniform basis, under the same type of statutory requirements which were established for the state in 1959.  See § 16, chapter 328, Laws of 1959; RCW 43.88.160.

            RCW 87.03.440 provides, in so far as is pertinent, as follows:

            ". . .

            "Any claim against the district for which it is liable under existing laws shall be  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] presented to the board as provided in this section and upon allowance it shall be attached to a voucher verified by the claimant and approved by the chairman and signed by the secretary and directed to the auditor for payment.

            ". . ."

            Question 1.  You have first asked whether § 1, chapter 116, Laws of 1965, supra providing for the authentication and certification of claims against a municipality or political subdivision by the auditing officer supersedes the provision of RCW 87.03.440, quoted above, which requires verification of the claim on a voucher submitted by the claimant.

            RCW 87.03.440,supra was not expressly amended by the legislature in the enactment of chapter 116, Laws of 1965, supra.  The legislature did, however, in § 5 of the 1965 act, expressly amend chapter 42.24 RCW and the session law source of the statutes codified therein.1/

             Our supreme court has repeatedly stated that it is the fundamental purpose in construing statutes to ascertain, if possible, and give effect to the intention of the legislature.  SeeIn re Bale 63 Wn.2d 83, 385 P.2d 545 (1963).  While, as previously noted, the pertinent provision of RCW 87.03.440,supra was not expressly amended, we believe that it was the intent of the legislature in enacting chapter 116, Laws of 1965,supra to supersede the earlier requirements of the irrigation district law by the establishment of a simplified uniform procedure for the authentication and certification of all claims against each and every municipality and political subdivision of this state.  In other words, we believe that the legislature by the enactment of chapter 116, Laws of 1965,supra impliedly amended or repealed the provision of RCW 87.03.440,supra requiring the claimant to make the certification of the vouchers submitted to the municipality or political subdivision.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            InHerrett Truck'g Co. v. Wn. Etc. Com. 58 Wn.2d 542, 346 P.2d 505 (1961), the court said:

            "A statute may be repealed by implication.  State v. Becker 39 Wn. (2d) 94, 234 P. (2d) 897.  Ordinarily, a general statute does not repeal an earlier special statute by implication.  State ex rel. Sherman v. Benson 111 Wash. 124, 189 Pac. 1000.  However, there is no rule which prohibits the repeal by implication of a special statute by a general one.  The question is always one of legislative intent.  The earlier special statute must yield to the later general statute where there is a manifest legislative intent that the general statute shall have universal application.  State ex rel. Department of Public Service v. Northern Pac. R. Co. 200 Wash. 663, 94 P. (2d) 502;State v. Becker, supra; Abel v. Diking & Drainage Imp. Dist. No. 4 19 Wn. (2d) 356, 142 P. (2d) 1017.  The rule was well expressed inAbel v. Diking & Drainage Imp. Dist. No. 4, supra in which we said:

            "'Repeals by implication are ordinarily not favored in law, and a later act will not operate to repeal an earlier act except in such instances where the later act covers the entire subject matter of the earlier legislation, is complete in itself, and is evidently intended to supersede the prior legislation on the subject, or unless the two acts are so clearly inconsistent with, and repugnant to, each other that they cannot, by a fair and reasonable construction, be reconciled and both given effect. . . .'"

            It is apparent that the two statutes in question are not absolutely inconsistent with or repugnant to each other.  It would be possible to conclude that in the case of an irrigation district the legislature had singled out this district to require, in addition to the existing requirements of RCW 87.03.440,supra that the auditing officer appointed by the irrigation district pursuant to chapter 116, Laws of 1965, supra would further authenticate and certify the fact that the services or materials had been supplied.  We do not, however, find any indication that it was the intent of the legislature to single out this one district for such special consideration, nor would  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] there appear to be any reason the legislature might have had for denying to irrigation districts the simplified vouchering procedures enacted for the state and all other municipal subdivisions.2/

             On the contrary, from the very language of the 1965 act itself, we believe it is apparent that the legislature intended to supersede the requirements of RCW 87.03.440,supra or the provisions similar thereto which might be found to apply to other specific municipalities or political subdivisions and to establish a uniform law governing all municipalities and political subdivisions in this area.  The 1965 act covers the entire matter of the certification and authentication of claims; it is complete in itself and as previously noted was intended, we believe, to supersede prior legislation such as that contained in RCW 87.03.440,supra.3/

             This conclusion is supported by the only discussion of chapter 116, Laws of 1965, supra when that act was being considered by the legislature as Senate Bill No. 221.4/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            The minutes of the House of Representatives for the 39th session show that on the 59th day of the regular session, March 10, 1965, Representative Newhouse asked Representative Smith, "Mr. Smith, does this apply to such districts as irrigation districts, sewer districts, drainage districts, that type of thing?"  Smith:  "I believe this says all municipalities, all political subdivisions of the state."

            Question 2.  You next ask whether an irrigation district board of directors may carry out the audit functions required by § 1 of chapter 116, instead of appointing or designating an auditing officer to perform that function.

            We do not construe your problem as one of determining who shall be the final authority for allowance of claims against the district.  That responsibility continues to rest with the board of directors as the governing body of the district.  See, RCW 87.03.115; also, RCW 87.03.440, supra.  Your question, rather, is directed to the separate auditing step contemplated by chapter 116, Laws of 1965, supra.

            We repeat that portion of § 1 which, in our opinion, controls the answer to your present inquiry.

            "All claims presented . . . shall be audited, before payment, by an auditing officer elected or appointed pursuant to statute or, in the absence of statute, an appropriate charter provision, ordinance or resolution of the municipal corporation or political subdivision. . . ."

            This language is clear and unambiguous.  The auditing shall be carried out by either an elected or appointed "auditing officer."  In our opinion the board of irrigation district directors cannot be construed as an "auditing officer" within the meaning of § 1.

            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/From this fact it is arguable that the legislature did not intend to repeal the pertinent portion of rCW 87.03.440, supra, since it was not referred to in chapter 116, Laws of 1965,supra.  See,Lindsey v. Superior Court, 33 Wn.2d 94, 204 P.2d 482 (1949).  However, in this connection, see State ex rel. Becker v. Wiley, 16 Wn.2d 340, 133 P.2d 507 (1943); In re Horse Haven Irrigation Dist., 11 Wn.2d 218, 118 P.2d 972 (1941).

2/The express repeal of some but not all special statutes on the subject is an indication of legislative intent to the contrary.  However, it is only one indication and not necessarily controlling.  One rule of statutory construction should not be singled out to exclude all others or to defeat obvious legislative intent.  See,State ex rel. Becker v. Wiley, supra;In re Horse Heaven Irrigation Dist.,supra.

3/You have additionally inquired as to whether the chairman of the board of directors must approve, and the secretary of the board sign all vouchers relating to claims as required by RCW 87.03.440, supra.  Concluding as we have that chapter 116 supersedes certain of the procedures found in RCW 87.03.440,supra, we are of the opinion that such approval and signature are no longer required.

4/Resort to the legislative history may be had in any case where the act being construed is ambiguous.  See, Lynch v. Dept. of Labor & Industries, 19 Wn.2d 802, 809, 145 P.2d 265 (1944);Procter & Gamble Co. v. King County, 9 Wn.2d 655, 115 P.2d 962 (1941); !Nostrand v. Balmer, 53 Wn.2d 460, 335 P.2d 10 (1959);State ex rel. Blume v. Yelle, 52 Wn.2d 158, 324 P.2d 247 1958).

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