Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 276 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


Sewer district commissioners conducting private sale of excess real property of district under RCW 56.08.080 and 56.08.090 1953 Supp. need not accept higher bid by private firm, but rather may accept lower bid of fire district.

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                                                                   June 23, 1954

Honorable John C. Merkel
Prosecuting Attorney
Kitsap County
307 Dietz Building
Bremerton, Washington                                                                                        Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 276

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office upon the following question:

            "Where a Sewer District offers real property for sale by bid at private sale, must the District accept the highest cash offer or may such District accept the offer to purchase from another municipal corporation in preference to a higher offer from a private person or corporation, providing, of course, that the bid of the municipal corporation is equal or greater than the appraised value of the real property?"

            In our opinion nothing in RCW 56.08.080 and 56.08.090 1953 Supp., pursuant to which we must assume the sale was conducted, would prevent the rejection of the highest bid at a private sale.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]


            RCW 56.08.080 and 56.08.090 1953 Supp. provide respectively as follows:

            "The board of commissioners of a sewer district may sell, at public or private sale, property belonging to the district if the board determines by unanimous vote of the elected members of the board that the property is not and will not be needed for district purposes and if the board gives notice of intention to sell as in this section provided.

            "The notice of intention to sell shall be published once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the district.  The last publication shall be at least twenty days but not more than thirty days before the date of sale.  The notice shall describe the property and state the time and place at which it will be sold or offered for sale, the terms of sale, whether the property is to be sold at public or private sale, and if at public sale the notice shall call for bids, fix the conditions thereof and shall reserve the right to reject any and all bids."

            "No real property of the district shall be sold for less than ninety percent of the value thereof as established by a written appraisal made not more than six months prior to the date of sale by three disinterested real estate brokers licensed under the laws of the state.  The appraisal shall be signed by the appraisers and filed with the secretary of the board of commissioners of the district, who shall keep it at the office of the district open to public inspection.  Any notice of intention to sell real property of the district shall recite the appraised value thereof:  Provided, That there shall be no private sale of real property where the appraised value exceeds the sum of five hundred dollars."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            These sections contain certain conditions precedent to sales such as that in question.  Your letter states that the statutory appraisal was had and the property was determined thereby to be worth $400.00.  It was therefore proper to employ the private sale procedure under which RCW 56.08.080 does not require a call for bids.  Although extensive research has disclosed no case in this or any other American jurisdiction distinguishing "public sale" from "private sale" in this context, it is a necessary inference from the quoted statutes that the district commissioners will not be bound by any particular bid at a private sale, particularly since they are given the right to reject any and all bids at a public sale.

            In connection with the point that the highest bid was made by a private party, whereas the lower bid which the district commissioners contemplate accepting was made by a fire district, we would call your attention to the fact that the 1953 legislature authorized the sale of real property by one political subdivision or municipal corporation of this state to another, where the property is no longer necessary to the operation of the vendor municipality or subdivision, without bidding or notice of sale such as is required by the above quoted sections.  See RCW 39.33.010 (1953 Supp.), the only condition precedent thereunder being a decree by the superior court in the county where the property is located, made after hearing on notice, that the property is in fact "surplus or excess to the future foreseeable needs" of the municipality or subdivision.

            From what has been said, we conclude that the sewer district commissioners would violate no statute, under the facts set out, in accepting the lower bid of the fire district.

            We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General