Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1950 No. 269 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


A prosecuting attorney may act as attorney in his official capacity for a health district organized under chapter 183, Laws of 1945 (6099-10 to 6099-19 Rem. Supp. 1945), and which district embraces a primary city.

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                                                                    May 3, 1950

Honorable Boone Hardin
Prosecuting Attorney
Whatcom County Court House
Bellingham, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 269

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of April 19, 1950, in which you ask the following question:

            May a prosecuting attorney act for a health district in his official capacity, which district was organized under chapter 183, Laws of 1945, and which embraces a primary city?

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            A prosecuting attorney may so act.


            Your letter reads as follows:

            "Pursuant to provisions of Chapter 183, Laws of 1945, a Health District was formed, comprised of Whatcom County together with the primary city of Bellingham, all as provided by this act.

            "Each of these political entities contributes public funds for use of the district, and each is represented by its members on the District  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] Health Board.  This Health District serves both the county and the city, and by operation of the 1945 Act supersedes and exercises all the powers and performs all the duties heretofore vested in the respective health departments of the county and city.

            "Under those facts and in view of your opinion, dated December 3, 1948, relating to the propriety of the prosecuting attorney serving officially as legal adviser to a joint county-city airport commission, the query becomes:

            "What, if any, is the duty of the prosecuting attorney of Whatcom County towards this Health District which is a dual agency of both the county and city?"

            Our opinion to your office, dated December 3, 1948, held that you, as prosecuting attorney, could not act for the airport commission therein referred to.  The opinion held in substance that the airport commission is an agency of both the county and the city; that if the prosecuting attorney acts for the airport commission in his official capacity he is also acting for the city involved; that since the offices of city attorney and county attorney are incompatible, the county attorney cannot represent a county agency which is also a city agency.

            The health district to which you refer is organized under chapter 183, Laws of 1945 (6099-10 to 19 Rem. Supp. 1945).  Section 3 of the act must be the section under which the health district in question was created.  Such section contemplates the creation of a health district by resolution of the board of county commissioners, and which resolution should provide that the entire county be formed into a health district to include all cities and towns except primary cities.

            Under section 4 of the act, a primary city desiring to be included in a health district must, through its legislative authority, petition the district board of health to be included in such health district.  Section 4 further provides that the district board of health and the city legislative authority may agree as to the functions to be performed for the city by the health district and the amount of financial contribution to be made to the city by the health district.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The last sentence of section 4 provides:

            "* * * Whenever any such city is included within a health district, its Board of Health and its Health Officer shall continue to exercise such powers and duties as are otherwise by law vested and imposed upon them and which are not to be performed and exercised by the District Board of Health and District Health Officer under the agreement in which the city is included in the health district."

            Section 5 provides for representation on the district board of health on behalf of the city.

            Section 6 provides:

            "The District Board of Health shall constitute the Board of Health for all the territory included in the health district, and shall supersede and exercise all the powers and perform all the duties by law vested in the County or City or Town Board of Health of any county, city or town included in the health district, except as herein otherwise provided."

            Section 9 provides for withdrawal by any city from membership in such health district upon terms therein prescribed.

            We cannot find wherein the health district is granted any such broad powers as to the employment of such persons as attorneys, as is the case with regard to airport districts (see section 11, subdivision 1; section 2, subdivision 1; and section 8, subdivision 8, chapter 182 Laws of 1945).

            It would seem to us that the health district contemplated by charter 183,supra, is comparable to the county board of health, created by chapter 85, Laws of 1907 (6091 Rem. Rev. Stat.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Under well recognized principles the prosecuting attorney would act as attorney for the county board of health.  We can see no sound reason why such prosecuting attorney should not also act as the attorney for the health district created under chapter 183, Laws of 1945.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General