Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 196 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Whether a given city committee, commission or board is subject to appointment by the mayor or by the city manager is a question resolved by consideration of its duties; if administrative, the city manager has the power of appointment; if merely advisory, the mayor has the power of appointment, subject to confirmation by the council.

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                                                                 January 26, 1956 

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 196

 Attention:  !ttMr. A. E. Hankins
            Chief Examiner
            Division of Municipal Corporations

Dear Sir:

             By letter previously acknowledged, you have asked the opinion of this office concerning the interpretation of RCW 35.18.060, as amended by § 6, chapter 337, Laws of 1955.  This statute reads in pertinent part as follows:

             "The powers and duties of the city manager shall be:

             "(2) To appoint and remove at any time all department heads, officers, and employees of the city or town, except members of the council, and subject to the provisions of any applicable law, rule, or regulation relating to civil service:  Provided, That the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] council may provide for the appointment by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council, of the city planning commission,and other advisory citizens' committees, commissions and boards advisory to the city council:  * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

             Your specific question reads:

             "What does this quoted [underlined above] language as copied from the statute (RCW 35.18.060) include?  Specifically, does it mean all lay boards and particularly does it include the Library Board, Park Board, or the Civil Service Commission?"

             In answering your question we assume the term "lay boards" to mean committees, commissions or boards of cities or towns whose membership is composed of persons having no relationship to the city or town other than as citizens.

             Our conclusion is that the statutory language in question does not include "all lay boards."  In particular, it does not include the library board, the park board, or the civil service commission.


            The key word in need of definition is "advisory."  Black's Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition, 1933, defines advisory to mean:

            "Counseling, suggesting, or advising, but not imperative or conclusive.  * * *"

             A distinction must be drawn between a committee, commission or board which is advisory, and one which is administrative.

             The planning commission is an example of a body "authorized to function in an advisory capacity only."  OAG August 8, 1946, to Honorable John N. Todd, State Senator.  OAG No. 4356, dated August 1, 1939, to A. O. Colburn, Deputy  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Prosecuting Attorney, Spokane County, cites a letter written by this office to the Washington State Planning Council, wherein it is pointed out that the duties of a planning commission are "purely advisoryand have no legal effect."  (Emphasis supplied.)  The planning commission is auxiliary to the legislative branch of the government.  As such, it is properly subject to the limited power of appointment vested in the mayor under the council-manager plan; for he is the chief legislative officer and has "no regular administrative duties."  (RCW 35.18.200).

             An administrative agency, on the other hand, is an organ of government other than a court and other than a legislature, which affects rights of private parties through either adjudication or rule‑making.  State ex rel. Sholes v. University of Minnesota, 54 N.W. (2d) 122.  Library board, park boards, and civil service commissions of cities and towns are administrative agencies, and, as such, are parts of the "administrative service" of the municipality.  (RCW 35.18.110.)  They are properly subject to the power of appointment of the city manager; for he is the "chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the city or town government."  (RCW 35.18.010).

             Thus whether or not a given committee, commission or board is subject to appointment by the mayor or by the city manager is a question to be resolved by consideration of its duties.  If the body exercises administrative authority, the power of appointment is vested in the city manager; if it acts in a mere advisory capacity, the power is vested in the mayor, subject to confirmation by the council.

             Your attention is directed to an opinion of this office dated June 3, 1948, addressed to your division [[to Lawrence Hubble, Division of Municipal Corporations, State Auditor]].  Therein it is concluded that the city manager has dressed to your division.  Therein it is concluded that the city manager has authority to appoint and remove at will park commissioners and library trustees. With this letter we reaffirm the conclusion reached in that opinion.

             We hope the foregoing will prove helpful.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General