Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 51 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


1. County Commissioners cannot contract with unlicensed architect to draw plans for county office building.

2. County Commissioners need not require bids for contract with architect to plan county building.

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                                                                   May 20, 1953

Honorable Murray E. Taggart
Prosecuting Attorney
Walla Walla County
Denny Building
Walla Walla, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 51

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

            1. May the Walla Walla County Commissioners contract with a person not having an architect's license to draw plans for a county building?

            2. Must the contract to draw plans for such a building be let out for bids?

            In our opinion the answer to both questions is "no."


            1. A contract for the rendition of architectural services is illegal and unenforceable when made with a person not licensed as an architect in accordance with RCW 18.08.010et seq. Sherwood v. Wise, 132 Wash. 295; Meyer v. Simpson, 34 Wn. (2d) 486.  We conclude that the hiring of an unlicensed architect to plan a county building would contravene public policy.

            2. Chapter 39.04 RCW dealing with public works contemplates that contracts for such work shall be made only after competitive bidding, subject to the exception stated in RCW 39.04.030 and discussed in the attached opinion of  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] April 17, 1941.  We assume that the county commissioners intend to provide for the plans in this case by contract.

            While bidding would be required in the case of contracts for the actual construction, such bids cannot be received until the plans and specifications have been drawn.  While bidding will insure economy in the furnishing of construction or materials already specified, the sole question being the price, the underlying principle is not applicable in situations where the objective is to determine what the plans and specifications should be.  In such situations the question is as to the skill and ability of the architect, and the relative size of bids is of little or no assistance in answering it.  Accordingly, it has become established that contracts for architectural services are an exception to the rule requiring bids on public work contracts.  Kennedy v. Ross, 170 P. (2d) 904 (Cal.); 10 McQuillen on Municipal Corporations (3rd ed.) 281; 44 A.L.R. 1153; and 142 A.L.R. 543.  We conclude that the contract for an architect's services in planning a county building need not be let out for bids.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General