Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1950 No. 274 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


City manager has authority over library operations same as other city functions, but has no power to abolish library board or shift functions elsewhere.

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                                                                   May 12, 1950

Carma R. Zimmerman
State Librarian
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 274

Dear Mrs. Zimmerman:

            This is in answer to your letter of April 25, 1950, requesting our opinion on the following question:

            Does the adoption of a city manager system of government by any city or town make any legal change in the relation between municipal libraries and the municipal government?

            Our conclusions are as follows:

            1. The city manager has authority to appoint library trustees and employees, subject to any civil service regulations.

            2. The city manager has general supervision of library administration.

            3. All dealings with the council by the library board must be by and through the city manager.

            4. The city manager may not abolish the board or shift its functions elsewhere.


             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            City libraries are controlled by chapter 119, Laws of 1935, as last amended by chapter 75, Laws of 1947 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 8226-1 to 8226-20).  The council-manager plan is authorized by chapter 271, Laws of 1943 (9198-1 to 9198-32 Rem. Supp. 1943).  Chapter 84, Laws of 1949, amended this act, providing that the city manager's power of appointment of officers and employees be subject to any civil service law in effect or subsequently adopted by a council-manager city.

            Section 21 of the council-manager act reads as follows:

            "Any city organized under this act shall be subject to all laws governing cities of its particular class where such laws are not inconsistent herewith."

            From this, it appears that if any conflict exists between the library law and the manager law, the manager law must govern.

            In general, the council-manager plan provides for an elected council, with legislative power and power to appoint and remove a manager who is the chief executive with broad administrative authority.  As set out in section 15 of the manager law, the manager's duties include the following:

            "1. To have general supervision over the administrative affairs of the municipality.

            "2. To see that the laws and ordinances are faithfully carried out.

            "* * *

            "5. To appoint all officers and employees of the municipality except the members of the council; * * *

            "6. To prepare and submit to the council such reports as may be required by the body, or as he may deem it advisable to submit.

            "7. To keep the council fully advised of the financial condition of the municipality and its future needs.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "8. To prepare and submit to the council a tentative budget for the next fiscal year.

            "9. To perform such other duties as the council may determine by ordinance or resolution."

            That a city library is a city function cannot be doubted.  It is included in the city budget, its officers are appointed by the city appointing power and annual reports to the city legislative authority are required.

            This office has held in an opinion to the Division of Municipal Corporations dated June 3, 1948, that a city manager does have authority to appoint and dismiss library trustees.  A copy of that opinion is enclosed herewith.

            Further, we believe that section 15, subsection 1, gives the manager full authority to control library administration in a supervisory capacity.

            It is also our opinion that all contact with the city council by the library board, including submission of annual reports and budgets, must be made by and through the city manager in view of section 19 of the 1943 act which reads in part as follows:

            "Neither the Council nor any of its committees or members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to, or his removal from office by the City Manager or any of his subordinates, or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of officers, and employees in the administrative service of the city except as provided herein.  Except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the Manager, and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinate of the City Manager either publicly or privately.  * * *"

            Although the city manager has authority to appoint library trustees and employees, subject to civil service requirements, and to generally supervise operations, it is equally clear that he cannot abolish the board or  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] shift its functions to other city agencies.  Libraries can only be abolished pursuant to section 8226-20 which provides for a petition and election.

            Section 8226-8 provides in part:

            "The management and control of a library shall be vested in a board of five (5) trustees.  * * *"

            The board is thus an integral part of the library by law, and no city government, be it council, commission or manager, has authority to abolish or reduce its functions except as authorized by law.

            We realize that this opinion is couched in extremely general terms.  The entire subject of city managers is a new one, both here and in other states.  It is possible that specific problems may beget different answers than herein indicated.  If you have any doubts as to the proper application of these principals in any particular case, please request a further opinion from this office.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General