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AGO 1956 No. 332 - October 23, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

SALARIES ‑- RIGHT OF ONE ELECTED TO FILL UNEXPIRED TERM OF OFFICE TO INCREASE IN COMPENSATION

The constitutional inhibition against increase or diminution of salary applies to one filling an unexpired term of office.

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                                                                October 23, 1956

Honorable Maloy Sensney
Prosecuting Attorney of Benton County
Fisk Building
Prosser, Washington                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 332

Dear Sir:

            Your letter of October 11, 1956, previously acknowledged, requested our opinion involving increases in salary during a term of office.  The factual situation is as follows:

            The per diem compensation of the commissioners of Benton County Public Utility District has been increased by resolution.  One of the incumbents died and another has filed for election to fill the unexpired two-year term.

            Your question may be stated as follows:

            Upon election for the unexpired term, is the commissioner entitled to the increased compensation?

            We answer in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            A person elected to fill an unexpired term of office is not entitled to a compensation greater than that to which the deceased incumbent was entitled.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Article II, § 25, and Article XI, § 8, prohibit the increasing or diminishing of a public officer's compensation after he is elected or during his term of office.

            Our court, inState ex rel. Hovey v. Clausen, 117 Wash. 475, held that the constitutional prohibition refers to the term and not the individual.  The court in that case held that upon the death of an incumbent who was barred by the constitution from receiving a statutory increase during the term for which he was elected, one appointed to fill the unexpired term comes within the constitutional inhibition against increase during the term for which the predecessor had been elected.

            We feel that the case is controlling and that the commissioner newly elected to fill the unexpired term is limited in compensation to that received by the deceased incumbent until the end of the full term of office.

            It is our sincere hope this will prove of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


CLYDE A. BARNARD
Assistant Attorney General

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