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AGO 1959 No. 84 - November 17, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


The Manager-Council form of government can be put into effect in a city which is presently operating under the commission form of government during the term of office of the present commissioners.

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                                                               November 17, 1959

Honorable Fred H. Dore
State Senator
Thirty-Seventh District
905 American Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                            Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 84

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Can the manager-council form of government be put into effect in the city of Walla Walla, presently operating under the commission form of government, during the term of the present commission?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            Your letter explains that an election took place on November 3, 1959, on the question of adopting the manager-council plan, and the results were in the affirmative.  Your letter further states that the present commissioners took office on the first Monday in June, 1958, and we assume that their election took place on the second Tuesday in March, 1958.  See RCW 35.17.020 (1955 Supp.) Accordingly, the next regular election for commissioners will be the second Tuesday in March, 1962.  (RCW 35.17.020 as amended by § 2, chapter 86, Laws of 1959.)  This election will be, of course, a general election.  Robb v. Tacoma, 175 Wash. 580, 593, 28 P. (2d) 327.

            Section 5, chapter 76, Laws of 1959, provides in part as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "If the majority of the votes cast at a special election for organization on the council-manager plan favor the plan, the city or town at its next regular election shall elect the council required under the council-manager plan in number according to the population of the municipality:  Provided, That if the date of the next municipal general election is more than one year from the date of the election approving the council-manager plan, a special election shall be held to elect the councilmen; the newly elected councilmen shall assume office immediately following the canvass of votes as certified and shall remain in office until their successors are elected and qualified.  Councilmen shall take office at the time provided by general law. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The purpose of the proviso of this statute is clearly to shorten the time for installing the council-manager plan where the next general election of the city is more than a year away.  While the statute does not expressly say that the new plan may be put into effect during the term of the present commission, we believe that it is the only logical conclusion to be drawn from its provisions.  The final quoted sentence of the statute, relating to the taking of office at the time provided by general law, can only relate to situations where the new councilmen are elected at the city's next regular election.  To interpret the statute otherwise would do violence to the rule of statutory construction that statutes are to be construed according to their evident intent and purpose, and the legislative intent must be gleaned from a consideration of the whole act, by giving effect to the entire statute and to every part thereof.  State v. Rinkes, 49 Wn. (2d) 664, 306 P. (2d) 205.

            RCW 35.18.280 provides as follows:

            "Upon the adoption of the council-manager plan, the city or town officials then existing shall hold office until their successors have been elected and qualified."

            We conclude that since the council-manager form of government was adopted at the November 3 election held in the city of Walla Walla for that purpose, the new form of government will take effect immediately upon the seating of the new council, as provided in § 5, chapter 76, Laws of 1959, after the special election at which they are chosen, and that the terms of the present commissioners will cease as of the same date.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            A similar result was reached in our opinion to Representative McPherson, December 1, 1950 (AGO 49-51-396), on the question of the effective date of the manager-council plan which had been adopted in place of the mayor-council form of government.  A copy of the opinion is enclosed for your information.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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