Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 123 - Aug 28 1953
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Duties may be delegated to alternates, and the alternates have the same status as the department heads they represent.

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                                                                 August 28, 1953

Mr. Ray Hyatt
Managing Director
Washington State Safety Council
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 123

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your letter of August 20, 1953, requesting our opinion as to the status of alternates representing department heads on the executive board of the Washington state safety council.

            Our conclusion is that such duties may be delegated to alternates, and that the alternates have the same status as the department heads they represent.


            RCW 43.60.050 provides, in part, as follows:

            "The executive board shall be composed of the director of highways, the chief of the state patrol, the director of licenses, the superintendent of public instruction, the director of labor and industries, and six members to be appointed by the governor from among citizens of the state * * *"

            By RCW 43.60.070, the executive board is made the governing body of the safety council.

            The general rule is that public officers may appoint deputies for the discharge of ministerial duties unless the law requires the duty to be performed by the principal in person.  67 C.J.S. 449, § 148.  The power to do acts required by statute involving the exercise of judgment and discretion may not ordinarily be delegatedBullock v. Billheimer, 175 Ind. 428, 94 N.E. 763.

            No specific duties are imposed upon the executive board.  Except for the very general language of RCW 43.60.070, its duties are not defined in any way.  The law does not require that the various department heads perform such duties in person.  Consequently, the department heads may delegate to their subordinates as much of these duties as may be fairly considered ministerial.  This could include attendance at meetings for the purpose of discussing or outlining  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] routine administrative matters to be carried out according to policies previously adopted.  On the other hand, matters involving the exercise of judgment and discretion could be acted upon only by the department heads in person.  This would include any matter where factual information is weighed and personal judgment is exercised in order to arrive at the conclusion.  Fundamentally, any policymaking function should be considered a nondelegable duty.

            The status of a deputy when acting for his principal is well established.  His status is that of a subordinate who has the power to perform every ministerial act or duty his principal may do, except to make another deputy.  SeeBlake v. Allen, 221 N.C. 445, 20 S.E. (2d) 552;State ex rel. Sawyer v. Mangni, 231 Minn. 457, 43 N.W. (2d) 775.

            It is our conclusion that the department heads designated in RCW 43.60.050 may appoint subordinates to act in their stead as members of the executive board of the safety council in all ministerial matters, with the same powers and duties as their principals would have if they were acting personally.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General