Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1956 No. 276 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Under the terms of the existing contract between W.S.C. and Pierce County the county lacks authority to pay directly the county's proportionate share of the county agent's annual salary while he is on sabbatical leave.

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                                                                   May 28, 1956

Honorable John J. O'Connell
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County Court House
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 276

Attention:  Mr. Keith D. McGoffin, Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on a question arising from the following situation.

            Mr. C. R. Doran, Pierce County Agent for the Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture under RCW 36.50.010, has been granted a one‑year sabbatical leave by the State College for training in his work.  Pierce county pays a proportionate share of the county extension agent's salary.  Mr. Doran, who will receive from W.S.C. the portion of his salary paid by the state, has requested the Pierce county commissioners to continue payment of the county's share of his salary during the one‑year sabbatical leave.

            You ask whether or not the board of county commissioners has authority to make such payments.

            In our opinion the county commissioners lack authority to expend county funds for this purpose under the terms of the contract now in effect between the State College and Pierce county.


             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]                                               

            RCW 36.50.010 provides as follows:

            "The board of county commissioners of any county and the governing body of any municipality are authorized to establish and conduct extension work in agriculture and home economics in cooperation with the State College of Washington, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon by any such board or governing body and the director of the extension service of the State College of Washington; and may employ such means and appropriate and expend such sums of money as may be necessary to effectively establish and carry on such work in agriculture and home economics in their respective counties and municipalities."

            We are informed that since 1933 there has been at least one agriculture extension agent assigned to every county of the state.  The cost of the extension service program is shared by the Federal government, the state and the counties in approximately equal amounts.  At the present time there are about 100 agriculture agents and 50 home economics agents assigned to the various counties in addition to the staff located at Pullman.

            The contract for cooperative extension service between the State College and Pierce county contains the following provision:

            "The Board of Regents, by and through the Director of the Extension Service of said State College of Washington, shall immediately upon the taking of effect of this contract, or as soon thereafter as possible, appoint and assign to the county a suitable and competent person to be employed as such agricultural expert, who shall be satisfactory to and approved by the Board of County Commissioners of the County."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            These county agents are faculty members of the State College.  As such they are entitled to apply to the State College for, and, if qualified, to be granted a year's sabbatical leave.  This usually consists of graduate study outside the state of Washington.  Since this is the first such request granted by the State College to an agriculture extension agent, it seems clear that this contingency was not within the contemplation of either the college or the county at the time the contract was executed.

            In our view the agricultural agent cannot be assigned to the county and on sabbatical leave from the State College simultaneously.  While the statute leaves ample latitude to revise the contract, we conclude that under the present contract Pierce County lacks authority to grant this particular request.

            We wish it understood that we have no objections to the State College granting sabbatical leave to extension agents who qualify.  If this tends to add to the overall costs of the cooperative extension service program all counties have adequate authority under the statute to share proportionately in the additional expense.  We believe this will tend to further enhance the reputation of a service which already has earned recognition as one of the most successful endeavors in the field of cooperation between local, state and Federal government.

            We hope the foregoing analysis will prove helpful.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General