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AGO 1950 No. 380 - November 13, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

CITIES ‑- SALARIES ‑- RAISE DURING TERM OF OFFICE

A proposed raise in salary to be effective before a successor to the office has been elected and qualified would be invalid.

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                                                               November 13, 1950

Honorable Joe L. Johnson
Prosecuting Attorney, Cowlitz County
Court House
Kelso, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 380

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of October 19, 1950, you requested our opinion on the question whether the salary of the city treasurer of Longview may lawfully be raised, effective January 1, 1951, since her office would have been up for election in December 1950, but for the recent amendments to our election laws which have changed the time for holding elections to March 1951.

            Our conclusion is as follows:

            The proposed raise would be in violation of Article II, section 25, of our Constitution prohibiting the raising of salaries of public officials during their term since the treasurer's term will not have fully expired by January 1, 1951.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 1, chapter 108, Am. L. of 1941 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 9116-1) provides in part:

            "The terms of office of Mayor, Attorney, Clerk, and Treasurer in all cities of the third class and the term of office of the Mayor and Treasurer in all cities of the fourth class shall be four years, and until their successors are elected and qualified: * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            By the above section, the treasurer's term is four years plus the time elapsing until a successor is elected and qualified.

            43 Am.Jur. 22;State ex rel. Pendleton v. Superior Court, 119 Wash. 73, 204 Pac. 1053.

            By virtue of chapter 161, Laws of 1949, no successor to the office in question can be elected until March 1951, nor take office until June 1951.  Thus the present treasurer's term will not expire until after January 1, 1951, since her term, as stated above, is for four years plus the time elapsing until her successor is elected and qualified.

            Section 9, chapter 161, Laws of 1949 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 5146-1) provides in part:

            "Any person whose term of office shall expire prior to the holding of the first election under this act, shall continue to hold office until his successor is elected and qualified."

            The above does not amount to an unlawful extension of the term within Article VIII, section 11, of the State Constitution.  State ex rel. Pendleton, supra.

            Consequently, since the treasurer's full term will not expire by January 1, 1951, but will go beyond this date, the proposed raise in salary would be a violation of our constitutional prohibition against raising the salary of public officers during their term.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

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