Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1949 No. 175 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Contracts of the Parks and Recreation Commission are binding upon their successors.

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                                                                December 8, 1949

State Parks and Recreation Commission
Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 175

Attention:  Honorable John R. Vanderzicht


            We have two letters from you which we think should be considered together.

            Your letter of November 25, 1949, reads as follows:

            "We would like to have a written opinion from your office concerning the matter of one Commission binding a subsequent Commission.

            "As you are well aware, this Department makes Concession agreements with various individuals, and each of these, of course, has a consideration as well as a time limit.

            "It is the desire of the present Commission to know whether or not a previous Commission's commitments would bind them, as well as whether or not any of their commitments would bind a future Commission."

            Your letter of November 28, 1949, reads as follows:

            "The last legislature appropriated to this department an amount totaling $50,000.00 to be used for the acquiring of new state park properties.  The chapter is 52, Laws of 1949, and reads, 'New Park  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

Properties (Statewide purchases and development, $50,000.00).'

            "I have been asked by Acting Director, John R. Vanderzicht to procure an opinion as to whether or not we may use some of this money as an option or earnest money to hold a piece of property which might even extend in time into the next biennium.  In other words, is it lawful to use state appropriations to pay an option, or do we actually have to have receipt of the land before this money can be used."


            In answer to your first letter you are advised that contracts which bind the state will continue to bind the state regardless of change of membership of the Commission, or even the abolishment of the Commission entirely.

            To illustrate, the concessions agreement entered into with reference to Twanoh State Park by a previous Commission continues to bind the state.  We have advised you to this effect, and there is now pending a law suit in which the state seeks to cancel the agreement for violation of one of the terms thereof.  As another illustration, it might be good business for you to buy supplies sufficient for a reasonable time in the future, or if you are purchasing insurance, and insurance contracts are ordinarily written for a period of three years, it might be good business for you to purchase a policy for that term even though you might be out of office or the biennium might end before the contract of insurance expired.  Miller Insurance Agency v. Porter, State Auditor, 93 Mont. 567, 20 P. (2d) 643.

            In answer to your second letter, in which you ask if you may use the funds appropriated for the purchase and development of new park properties (chapter 52, Laws of 1949) for the purchase of an option rather than new park properties, we desire to call your attention to our letter of February 14, 1925, to the Honorable H. W. Rutherford, State Parks Superintendent, and our letter of July 15, 1935, to the Honorable Cliff Yelle, State Auditor.

            In the first letter above cited we advised that a contract to purchase land on time extending beyond the biennial appropriation which would obligate future funds could not be made without the consent of the Administrative Board, which at that time had authority to grant such consent.

            In the second letter above cited we advised that the State Parks Committee could purchase land by contract only when there was sufficient funds on hand available to pay the entire purchase price, and hence, there would be no occasion for extending the time of payment.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Section 3, chapter 52, Laws of 1949, appropriates $1,200.00 or so much thereof as shall be found necessary for the purchase, condemnation, and improvement of land, which total appropriation is allocated to specific items, the last two items being:

            "Historical Sites (purchase and develop)

New Park Properties (statewide purchaseand develop)

            We believe that the legislature authorized you to expend the sum of $50,000 for historical sites and the sum of $50,000 for new park properties, unless you thought that a part of this appropriation should be used for development of the properties, in which event you would have to use less than the total appropriation for the purchase of the properties.  State v. Donald, 160 Wis. 21, 151 N.W. 331.

            We would certainly approve your using $50.00, let us say, to secure an option on a piece of property which could probably be purchased for a sum well within the $50,000 appropriation if you thought it good business to tie up the property by option while we were examining title, but we are confident that you would not ask us to approve the payment of the entire sum of $50,000 to secure an option on property which would cost the state in excess of that sum and thus present to the next session of the legislature a situation where they would either be forced to make an additional appropriation or cause the state to lose the $50,000 paid for the option.

            Please let us know if we can be of service in advising you on any particular set of facts.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General