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Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1974 No. 69 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


County prosecuting attorneys are required to provide legal counsel and representation to county transportation authorities created pursuant to chapter 167, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess.

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                                                                    July 17, 1974

Honorable Robert E. Schillberg
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish County Court House
Everett, Washington 98201                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 69

Attention:  !ttMr. Eugene Butler
            Chief Civil Deputy
Dear Sir:
            By recent letter you have requested our opinion as follows:
            "We hereby request an opinion from your office as to whether a county transportation authority, created pursuant to ch. 167, Laws of 1974, 3rd Ex. Sess., is a municipal or quasi-municipal corporation and therefore not entitled to legal advice from the prosecuting attorney, or whether it is a county department."
            We respond in the manner set forth below.
            Under § 2, chapter 167, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., which became effective when signed by the governor on May 5, 1974,1/
            "Every county, except a county in which a metropolitan municipal corporation is performing the function of public transportation on the effective date of this 1974 amendatory act, is authorized to create a county transportation authority which shall perform the function of public transportation.  Such authority shall embrace all the territory within a single county and all cities and towns therein."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]    It is quite true, as you have pointed out, that a county transportation authority as thus created will be composed not only of members of the county legislative body of the subject county itself but, as well, of the mayors of certain cities situated therein.  See, § 3, chapter 167, supra.  Nevertheless it seems apparent to us from a reading of the entire act that such an authority is a county department or agency ‑ and not a separate municipal or quasi-municipal corporation.  By this enactment the legislature has, in effect, made the operation of public transportation systems a county function and, through the agency of a county transportation authority, has provided each county with the tools by which this function may be performed.  See, in particular, § 4 of the act which details the powers of a county transportation authority in its performance of this function at the county level.
            From this it readily follows that it is the duty of the county prosecuting attorney, under RCW 36.27.020,2/ to provide legal counsel and representation to the county transportation authority if one is created by its county commissioners or other county legislative authority.  Accord, our opinion of January 11, 1972, to the Kittitas county prosecuting attorney [[to Joseph Panattoni, an Informal Opinion AIR-72503]], copy enclosed, relating to the analogous situation of county disability boards established pursuant to the law enforcement officers' and fire fighters' retirement law (chapter 41.26 RCW).  In addition, see our opinion of May 3, 1950, to the prosecuting attorney of Whatcom county [[to Boone Hardin, AGO 49-51-269]], a copy of which is also enclosed, regarding the responsibilities of a prosecuting attorney with respect to the provision of legal counsel  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] and representation to a single county health district organized under chapter 183, Laws of 1945.  To be contrasted with this opinion is AGO 55-57 No. 143 [[to Hewitt A. Henry, Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston County on October 3, 1955]], copy enclosed, in which we concluded that when a health district is comprised of two or more counties, the prosecuting attorney of neither such county is required by law to serve as legal counsel for the multicounty district.
            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***
1/Except for certain portions which were vetoed.
            ". . .
            "(2) Be legal adviser to all county and precinct officers and school directors in all matters relating to their official business, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)