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Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1973 No. 98 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton

Persons appointed to serve as members of an advisory committee under § 11, chapter 212, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess., serve at the pleasure of the board of county commissioners; they may be compensated for mileage and other expenses pursuant to RCW 36.17.030.
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                                                                 October 1, 1973
Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington 98823
                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1973 No. 98
Dear Sir:
            By recent letter you requested our opinion on two questions pertaining to § 11, chapter 212, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess.  We paraphrase these questions as follows:
            (1) What is the tenure of persons appointed to serve as members of an advisory committee to a county assessor under § 11, chapter 212, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess.?
            (2) Is there any legal authority for the payment of expenses and mileage to persons serving on such an advisory committee?
            We answer these questions in the manner set forth below.
            Chapter 212, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess., is, essentially, a further legislative implementation of Article VII, § 11 (Amendment 53) of our state Constitution relating to the taxation of "open space land" on the basis of actual use.  This constitutional provision, which was approved by the voters at the November 5, 1968, general election, was first implemented by chapter 87, Laws of 1970, Ex. Sess. ‑ of which chapter 212, supra, is largely amendatory.
            The particular section of this 1973 act which is pertinent to your question, § 11, adds the following new section to chapter 84.34 RCW:
            "The county legislative authority shall appoint a five member committee representing the active farming community within the county to serve in an advisory capacity to the county assessor in implementing assessment guidelines as established by the department of revenue for the assessment of open space, farms and agricultural lands, and timber lands classified pursuant to this 1973 amendatory act."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            Question (1):
            Nowhere within the text of § 11, supra, or anywhere else within the subject act do we find any provision establishing a fixed term of office for persons serving on the advisory committees which are to be appointed under this section in each county.  Accordingly, the applicable principles with respect to these positions are those set forth in 3 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, § 12.112 as follows:
            "If no definite term exists, and the law does not otherwise provide, the tenure is at the will of the authority which confers the office, and unless restrained by law, the power which appoints may remove.  A term for an office that has been placed by charter or statute at the pleasure of the appointing power cannot be fixed by ordinance.
            "Although it does not automatically terminate with the expiration of the term of office of the appointing power, the term of an officer appointed for no definite time expires when his successor is appointed and enters upon the duties of his office, under a law authorizing officers to hold their offices until their successors are chosen and qualified.  An officer can waive his right to hold office for a definite term by agreeing in advance of appointment that he shall hold office at the pleasure of the appointing power."
            Question (2):
            Authority for the payment of mileage and other expenses to the members of an advisory committee appointed pursuant to § 11, chapter 212, supra, is to be found in RCW 36.17.030 which provides as follows:
            "All county officers shall be entitled to their necessary reasonable traveling expenses in the performance of their official duties, bills therefor to be audited by the county commissioners:  Provided, That when using their own cars, they shall be allowed not to exceed ten cents per mile for each mile of necessary travel."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            Accord, AGO 65-66 No. 76 [[to Sid Buckley, Prosecuting Attorney, Stevens County on March 7, 1966]], copy enclosed.
            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Attorney General
Deputy Attorney General