Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1959 No. 30 - April 27, 1959
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS - COUNTY - SHERIFF - APPLICABILITY OF VETERANS PREFERENCE ACTS TO INITIATIVE NO. 23, SHERIFFS' EMPLOYEES' CIVIL SERVICE.

1. RCW 73.16.010, which provides that veterans shall be preferred for appointment and employment in every public department is not applicable to positions covered by Initiative No. 23.

2. RCW 41.04.010, which provides that veterans shall be given a preference in all competitive examinations for public office, position or employment is applicable to position covered by Initiative No. 23.

3. Either a "newspaper article" or a "paid legal publication" is sufficient to meet one of the requirements of public notice of civil service examination contained in proposed civil service Rule V, § 1.

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

                                                                   April 27, 1959

Honorable Herbert H. Davis
Prosecuting Attorney
Benton County
Fisk Building
Prosser, Washington                                                                                                     Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 30

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on Initiative No. 23, which relates to Sheriffs' Employees' Civil Service.  We paraphrase your questions as follows:

            1.  Is RCW 73.16.010, which provides that veterans shall be preferred for appointment and employment in every public department, applicable to positions covered by the initiative?

            2.  Is RCW 41.04.010, which provides that veterans shall be given a preference in all competitive examinations for public office, position or employment, applicable to positions covered by the initiative?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            3.  Is a "newspaper article" rather than a "paid legal advertisement" sufficient to meet one of the requirements for public notice of civil service examinations contained in section 1, Rule V of the suggested rules for administration of Initiative No. 23?

            We answer question one in the negative and questions two and three in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question 1.

            Section 1, chapter 29, Laws of 1951 (cf. RCW 73.16.010) provides:

            "Inevery public department, and upon all public works of the state, and of any county thereof, honorably discharged soldiers, sailors, and marines who areveterans of any war of the United States, or of any military campaign for which a campaign ribbon shall have been awarded, and their widows,shall be preferred for appointment and employment.  Age, loss of limb, or other physical impairment, which does not in fact incapacitate, shall not be deemed to disqualify them, provided they possess the capacity necessary to discharge the duties of the position involved."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            InState ex rel. Ford v. King County, 47 Wn. (2d) 911, 290 P. (2d) 465 (1955), the court held that certain county employees of the fire and security force at the county airport, who were veterans described in the statute last quoted, were entitled to preference in appointment and employment over certain nonveterans in the same employment, even though the nonveterans had been employed by the county for a longer period.

            RCW 73.16.010 was again construed by the court in State ex rel. Day v. King County, 50 Wn. (2d) 427, 428, 429, 312 P. (2d) 637 (1957).  Therein the court stated that:

            "The decisive issue and the only one requiring discussion is:  Does the veterans' preference act repeal or modify the statute authorizing the sheriff to appoint deputies who shall serve at his pleasure?  The able and experienced trial judge correctly held that it did not."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In theDay case the court held that the Ford case was not controlling, saying:

            "Both deputies of the former sheriff, who are honorably discharged veterans, rely entirely onState ex rel. Ford v. King County, 47 Wn. (2d) 911, 290 P. (2d) 465.  That case dealt only with county employees working in a group affording fire and security protection at a county-owned airport, and not public officers holding office created by statute and whose duties are defined by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Apparently, in theDay case, the court considered that the sheriff's office was a "public department" within the purview of RCW 73.16.010.  However, the court ruled that § 2767, Code of 1881, (In the Day case the court cited and quoted Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4160, which is an earlier codification of § 2767, Code of 1881; the court noted that § 4160 and § 2767 are not found in the RCW but that the compilers have referred to such in RCW 36.28.020 and RCW 36.16.070.) which empowers the sheriff to employ deputies and dismiss them at pleasure, was a special statute and that in accordance with the basic rule of statutory construction the special statute controlled the general statute, (RCW 73.16.010).

            Section 2767, Code of 1881 provides:

            "Each sheriffmay appoint as many deputies as he may think proper, for whose official acts he shall be responsible to the amount of their bond, and may revoke such appointments at his pleasure; and persons may also be deputed by any sheriff, in writing, to do particular acts; and the sheriff shall be responsible on his official bond for the default or misconduct in office of his deputies."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Initiative No. 23 provides that persons appointed to positions classified under the act shall be appointed from a list of persons certified as eligible by the civil service commission and provides that no person permanently appointed shall be dismissed except for cause.  Initiative No. 23, like § 2767, Code of 1881, governs the method of appointing and dismissing deputies of the sheriff.  Under the rationale of theDay case, we think that Initiative No. 23 when construed with RCW 73.16.010, is, like § 2767, Code of 1881, a special statute.  Thereby we conclude that the initiative controls, making RCW 73.16.010 inapplicable to appointment and employment in the sheriff's office.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Question 2.

            Section 1, chapter 134, Laws of 1949 (cf. RCW 41.04.010) provides:

            "In all competitive examinations, unless otherwise provided herein, to determine the qualifications of applicants for public offices, positions or employment, the State of Washington,and all of its political subdivisions and all municipal corporations,shall give a preference status to all veterans, as herein defined, of all wars in which the United States of America has been, now is or may hereafter be engaged,by adding to the mark, grade or rating, based upon a possible rating of one hundred (100) points as perfect, ten per cent (10%) to his final earned test rating:  Provided, That he has received a minimum passing grade in such examination.  The term 'veteran' as herein used, shall include every person who has served, now is serving, or may hereafter serve in any branch of the Armed Forces of the United States during any such war and, upon termination of the service, has received an honorable discharge, or a physical discharge with an honorable record, or has been relieved of active services under honorable circumstances.  The provisions of this act shall not be applicable to promotional examinations to determine the qualifications of officers or employees for promotion from a lower grade position to a higher grade position: Provided, That when such a veteran was employed in public service at the time of his entry into military service and returns to the same employment, he shall be entitled to the preference herein provided for on his first promotional examination."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            InState v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 684, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949), the court said:

            "Statutes inpari materia must be construed together.  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  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] 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. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 41.04.010 relates to competitive examinations to determine qualifications for public offices, positions or employment.  Initiative No. 23 requires competitive examinations for applicants for positions under the act, including certain deputy sheriffs, who are public officers, as well as certain other employees of the sheriff.  These two statutes are inpari materia and must be construed as one act.  Therefore, it is our opinion that the county civil service commission established by Initiative No. 23 must afford applicants who are veterans described in RCW 41.04.010, the preference therein granted.  See AGO 49-51 No. 336, a copy of which is enclosed; Younie v. Doyle, Mass.; 29 N.E. (2d) 137, 131 A.L.R. 879 (1940).

            Question 3.

            At the request of certain county prosecutors, this office prepared and issued in December, 1958, "A Suggested Guide To Rules and Regulations For County Civil Commissions in Administration of the Merit System for County Sheriffs' Offices."  Therein, § 1, Rule V (p. 16), provides:

            "Announcement of Examinations Public notice of examinations shall be given at least ten days in advance of the last date for filing of applicationsby publication in one or more newspapers of general circulation published in the county by posting announcements on bulletin boards in the corridors of the municipal buildings and in such other places and in such other manner as the commission may deem advisable."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The county civil service commission created by Initiative No. 23 is charged with the duty of making rules and regulations considered desirable to effectuate the general purposes of the initiative.  Initiative No. 23, § 6.  In general, rules adopted by a public administrative body are subject to the same principles of construction as apply to statutes.  73 C.J.S. 425, Public Administrative Bodies and Procedure, § 105.

            "It is a primary rule of statutory construction that, in the absence of a statutory definition or a well  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] established technical meaning, ordinary words and phrases of a well known and definite sense when used in a statute must be accorded that meaning unless clearly controlled by the context."  State v. Vosgien, 82 Wash. 685, 687, 144 Pac. 947 (1914).

            See alsoMiller v. City of Pasco, 50 Wn. (2d) 229, 310 P. (2d) 863 (1957);Pacific Northwest Alloys, Inc. v. State, 49 Wn. (2d) 702, 306 P. (2d) 197 (1957); 82 C.J.S., Statutes, p. 639, § 329 (b).

            Since we find no authority ruling that the term "public notice by publication" has a well established technical meaning, we look to the well known meaning of these terms:

            "PUBLIC NOTICE.  Notice given to the public generally, or to the entire community, or to all whom it may concern."  Black's Law Dictionary (1951) p. 1211.

            "PUBLICATION.  To make public; to make known to people in general; to bring before public; to exhibit, display, disclose or reveal."  Black's Law Dictionary (1951) p. 1396.

            "publication. . . . notification to the people at large. . . ." Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (1923) p. 1731.

            In view of the foregoing definitions, we think it clear that either a "newspaper article" or a "paid legal advertisement" would satisfy one of the requirements enumerated in proposed Rule V, § 1.

            In passing, we wish to emphasize that the rule in question is from aguide prepared to aid the various civil service commissions in drafting their rules and regulations.  Under the initiative, it is left to each commission to determine what rules are needed to satisfy the particular needs of their county.

            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

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo