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AGO 1959 No. 27 - March 30, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL DISTRICTS - APPLICABILITY OF RCW 36.22.050 TO ISSUANCE OF WARRANTS.

RCW 36.22.050, providing a $500.00 limitation on the amount for which county warrants may be issued when there is insufficient cash on hand to pay the same upon presentation is not applicable to school district warrants.

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                                                                  March 30, 1959

Honorable John J. Lally
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 27

Attention:  !ttDonald N. Olson,Chief Deputy                                      Overruling AGO 51-53-140, in part

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question regarding warrants issued by school districts.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            Is RCW 36.22.050, which provides a five hundred dollar limitation on the amount for which county warrants may be issued when there is insufficient cash on hand to pay the same upon presentation, applicable to school district warrants?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Revised Code of Washington 36.22.050 [[RCW 36.22.050]]provides:

            "For claims allowed by the county commissioners, and also for cost bills and other lawful claims duly approved by the competent tribunal designated by law for their allowance, he shall draw a warrant on the county treasurer, made payable to the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] claimant or his order, bearing date from the time of and regularly numbered in the order of their issue but no warrant shall be issued within less than ten days after the date of its allowance.  Unless there is sufficient cash in the county treasury to pay it on presentation, no warrant shall be issued for a greater amount than five hundred dollars.  At the time of issuing warrants for a claim, two or more warrants may be issued in lieu of one.  [(i) 1893 c 119 § 1, part; Code 1881 § 2710, part; RRS § 4086, part.  (ii) 1893 c 48 § 2; RRS § 4087.]"  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The Revised Code is prima facie evidence of the law, but, unless re enacted [[reenacted]], it is not controlling over the session laws.  Often, reference to the session law clarifies the meaning of a particular code section.  See RCW 1.04.020, 1.04.021, 1.08.040; 48 OAG 112 [[1948 OAG 112c to Department of Labor and Industries on July 21, 1948]]; State ex rel. Kirschner v. Urquhart, 50 1.04.021, 1.08.040; 48 OAG 112;State ex rel. Kirschner v. Urquhart, 50 Wn. (2d) 131, 310 P. (2d) 261 (1957).

            Pertinent sections of the session laws are as follows:

            "Section 1.  Section 2710, Code of 1881, relating to the duties of county auditors, is hereby amended so as to read as follows: Section 2710.  He shall audit all claims, demands and accounts against the county which by law are chargeable to said county, except such cost or fee bills as are by law to be examined or approved by some other judicial tribunal or officer.  Such claims as it is his duty to audit shall be presented to the board of county commissioners for their examination and allowance.  For claims allowed by the county commissioners, as also for cost bills and other lawful claims duly approved by the competent tribunal designated by law for their allowance, he shall draw a warrant on the county treasurer, made payable to the claimant or his order, bearing date from the time of and regularly numbered in the order of their issue, and he shall carefully keep proper warrant books, and when a warrant is issued the stub shall be carefully retained, upon which shall be recorded the number, date, name of payee, amount, nature of claims or services briefly stated and by whom allowed.  He shall also retain all original bills and indorse thereupon claimant's name, nature of claim, the action had and if warrant be issued, dating and numbering said voucher or claim the same as the warrant.  Nothing herein  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] contained shall prevent claimants, at the time of issuing said warrants, from having the same broken, or issued in smaller warrants by the said auditor, using two or more warrants in lieu of one.  In all such cases, however, when broken warrants are issued, the auditor issuing the same is required to preserve as many stub entries as he issues broken warrants, noting upon such stub the claim for which issued, the same as in other cases, together with a note of the number of broken warrants which aggregate the amount of the entire claim allowed:  Provided, No single warrant shall be issued for a greater amount than five hundred dollars: Provided further, That the above restrictions shall not apply to warrants issued when there is cash on hand in the county treasury to pay the same on presentation.  All claims of the county auditor against the county for services shall be audited and allowed by the board of county commissioners as other claims are audited and allowed.  Said warrants shall in all respects be audited, approved, issued, numbered, registered and paid the same as any other county warrant.  The words 'county warrant', as herein designated, shall be synonymous with 'county order' or 'county scrip.'  In this as well as in all other laws of this state, such terms are convertible, and shall be considered to mean one and the same thing."  (Emphasis supplied.)  (§ 1, chapter 119, Laws of 1893.)

            "Sec. 2.  No county auditor or clerk of the board of county commissioners shall issue any county warrant within less than ten days from and after the date of the allowance of such warrant."  (§ 2, chapter 48, Laws of 1893.)

            The foregoing session was codified, in part, as § 393 of Ballinger's Code of 1897.  Section 393 is analogous to RCW 36.22.050.  In the case ofState ex rel. Egbert v. Blumberg, 46 Wash. 270, 273, 89 Pac. 708 (1907), our court declared:

            "Appellant contends that, because the commissioner of horticulture is required to issue a certificate to the county inspector showing the number of days' work performed in each month, on which the county inspector shall receive payment, the commissioner of horticulture is thereby created an officer for the allowance of  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] claims of this kind, and that the auditor must draw a warrant upon presentation of the certificate without any action by the board of county commissioners.  The words 'the competent tribunal' in § 393 clearly refer to the judicial tribunal or officer as used in the same section, and mean a court or judge. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In view of the court's interpretation of the term "competent tribunal," it is now certain that § 1, chapter 119, Laws of 1893 and RCW 36.22.050 refer only to claims allowed by the board of county commissioners or approved by a court of law or judicial officer.  In addition, the court has indicated that the session law last cited applies only to claims asserted against the county.  SeeShaw Supply Co. v. King County, 172 Wash. 137, 20 P. (2d) 8 (1932).  With the foregoing in mind we think it is clear that the warrants to which § 1, chapter 119, Laws of 1933 and RCW 36.22.090 make reference do not include warrants issued to pay claims against school districts.

            In reaching our conclusions, we have carefully examined the statutes governing the methods by which school district accounts are audited and warrants are issued, registered and called; for convenience of the reader we cite the most pertinent:  RCW 28.58.150 (7); RCW 28.59.150; RCW 28.62.110; RCW 28.62.150; RCW 28.66.010; RCW 28.66.020; RCW 28.66.030; RCW 28.66.040; RCW 36.22.090 and RCW 36.29.060.  From an examination of these code sections and the session laws from which such are derived, we are aware that in certain instances the county auditor audits the accounts of certain classes of school districts and countersigns the warrants issued to pay claims against the school districts; however, we find no provisions therein establishing limitations on the amounts for which school warrants may be issued or empowering the auditor to so provide.  Consequently, we do not believe these statutes change the conclusions drawn herein.

            We have not overlooked the earlier opinion of this office, Opinion No. 51-53-140 to the prosecuting attorney of Grant county, dated October 1, 1951, a copy of which is enclosed, which concluded that § 4086 of Remington's Code (RCW 36.22.050) was applicable to second and third class school districts.  That opinion misconstrued the term "competent tribunal" to include school boards of second and third class districts.  That portion of the earlier opinion that is in conflict with this opinion is overruled.

            The proposition has been advanced that RCW 43.09.200 (and RCW 28.59.200), directing the state auditor to prescribe a uniform system of accounting and reporting in every public office, empower the state auditor to prescribe the same five hundred dollar limitation, provided in RCW 36.22.050, on the warrants issued by every public office.  See attorney  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] general's memorandum to the chief examiner, division of municipal corporations, state auditor's office, dated August 18, 1953.

            It is, of course, elementary that, whenever possible, legislation should be construed so as to give effect to the intention of the lawmakers.  RCW 43.09.200 is a codification of § 2, chapter 76, Laws of 1909.  After reading chapter 76, "Establishing a Uniform System of Public Accounting," in its entirety, it appears that it governs only the form or method of bookkeeping or accounting, not the substance of acts performed and reflected on the books or accounts.  The purpose of establishing a uniform system of accounting and reporting is to facilitate supervision and examination by the state auditor of public accounts, to readily disclose malfeasance, to detect and prevent crimes and to make information, in certain instances, readily available to the general public.  SeeState ex rel. Clausen v. Burr, 65 Wash. 524, 118 Pac. 639 (1911);Interstate Commerce Com. v. Goodrich Transit Co., 224 U.S. 194, 56 L.Ed. 729, 32 S.Ct. 436 (1936).

            We find nothing in chapter 76, Laws of 1909, indicating that the legislature intended to empower the state auditor to regulate as to school districts that which the legislature has seen fit to regulate in other cases.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP R. MEADE
Assistant Attorney General

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