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What notice is required to the public in advance of a levy election being held for a public hospital district?

 

 

The public notice requirement that applies to a local levy election by a public hospital district generally is notice by publication in one or more newspapers of general circulation in the district not more than ten days nor less than three days prior to the election.

This requirement is not very easy to locate and the path is somewhat indirect. RCW 29A.36.071 provides that the notice on an enactment by a unit of local government is to be advertised in the manner provided for nominees for elective office. The statute that provides for notice for nominees for elective office is RCW 29A.52.351 and it provides in part:

Except as provided in RCW 29A.32.260, notice for any state, county, district, or municipal election, whether special or general, must be given by at least one publication not more than ten nor less than three days before the election by the county auditor or the officer conducting the election as the case may be, in one or more newspapers of general circulation within the county. The legal notice must contain the title of each office under the proper party designation, the names and addresses of all officers who have been nominated for an office to be voted upon at that election, together with the ballot titles of all measures, the hours during which the polls will be open, and the polling places for each precinct, giving the address of each polling place .... This is the only notice required for a state, county, district, or municipal general or special election and supersedes the provisions of any and all other statutes, whether general or special in nature, having different requirements for the giving of notice of any general or special elections.

The reference to RCW 29A.32.260 above relates to those elections in which a voters' pamphlet is mailed to every resident. If a voters' pamphlet is mailed, then no further notice is required to be published. Otherwise, the published notice as outlined above is the required notice for a public hospital district levy election. Generally, the county auditor is responsible for preparing the notice under RCW 29A.52.351. We recommend that the public hospital district contact the county auditor about the auditor preparing the notice.

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What state law provisions address disposal of surplus personal property by a public hospital district?  

 

 

There is specific statutory authorization in RCW 70.44.320 for a public hospital district board of commissioners to determine that personal property of the district is no longer required for PHD purposes and to dispose of such personal property. The statute provides:

The board of commissioners of any public hospital district may sell or otherwise dispose of surplus personal property of the district which the board has determined by resolution is no longer required for public hospital district purposes in such manner and upon such terms and conditions as the board in its discretion finds to be in the best interest of the district.

Once the board has determined by resolution that district personal property is no longer required for PHD purposes, the board has discretion and flexibility regarding the method utilized by the PHD to dispose of such surplus personal property. The PHD should also check to be sure they have not adopted specific local policies in this regard.

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Is it permissible for a public hospital district superintendent to be superintendent for more than one public hospital district simultaneously?

 

 

Although definitive legal authority was not found on this issue, it appears that the positions would likely not be regarded as incompatible under the doctrine of incompatible offices because generally it is the district board of commissioners, not the superintendent, which legislates, sets policy, and enters into contracts for the district, presuming the board has not delegated authority to the superintendent. This general rule, however, would require closer scrutiny if there has been a delegation of authority from the board to the superintendent. If, for example, the board has delegated to the superintendent authority to enter into contracts, incompatibility issues would arise if a superintendent simultaneously possessed such contract authority for two districts regarding the same contract.

Similarly, it appears there would not be an issue under chapter 42.23 RCW regarding contractual contract of interest, unless the superintendent had a beneficial (i.e., financial) contract interest and the contract at issue was "made by, through or under the supervision of such officer, in whole or in part." See RCW 42.23.030. If the superintendent did not have a beneficial interest in the contract or the contract, in whole or in part, was not made by, through, or under the superintendent's supervision, chapter 42.23 RCW would not be implicated.

In sum, any public hospital district contemplating having its superintendent also simultaneously be superintendent of another public hospital district should consider a range of issues that could arise. For example, there could be situations in which the districts have different or adverse interests on a particular issue, which could make it difficult for a superintendent to be the point person for such districts at the same time. As such, we strongly recommend that any superintendent facing this issue consult with legal counsel for the district before proceeding.

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If a public hospital district contracts with an officer or employee on an interim basis (e.g., interim CEO, CFO, or otherwise) and would like to offer that interim officer/employee a permanent position, is there a state law requirement that the position be posted internally or externally or can the district go ahead with the hire?

 

 

There is no requirement in state law that the position be posted either internally or externally before a hire is made. State law does not require that a particular procedure be followed regarding posting for such hires, although if the public hospital district has adopted its own procedures regarding such matters, the procedures are to be followed.

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If a requestor of public records asks that paper documents be scanned and made into PDF files so they can be emailed to the requestor, must a public hospital district do this? If so, what can the public hospital district charge for this?

 

 

In our opinion, if a public hospital district has the technological capability (i.e., if it has a scanner), it should comply with this request for conversion of paper documents into PDF files. This conclusion is supported by the Public Records Act Model Rules, specifically WAC 44-14-05002(2)(c)(i), dealing with "reasonably locatable" and "reasonably translatable" electronic records:

Agency has paper-only records. When an agency only has a paper copy of a record, an example of a "reasonably translatable" copy would be scanning the record into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file and providing it to the requestor. The agency could recover its actual cost for scanning. See WAC 44-14-07003. Providing a PDF copy of the record is analogous to making a paper copy. However, if the agency lacked a scanner (such as a small unit of local government), the record would not be "reasonably translatable" with the agency's own resources. In such a case, the agency could provide a paper copy to the requestor.

As to what the public hospital district may charge for scanning, WAC 44-14-07003 provides:

Charges for electronic records. Providing copies of electronic records usually costs the agency and requestor less than making paper copies. Agencies are strongly encouraged to provide copies of electronic records in an electronic format. See RCW 43.105.250 (encouraging state and local agencies to make "public records widely available electronically to the public."). As with charges for paper copies, "actual cost" is the primary factor for charging for electronic records. In many cases, the "actual cost" of providing an existing electronic record is de minimis. For example, a requestor requests an agency to e-mail an existing Excel spreadsheet. The agency should not charge for the de minimis cost of electronically copying and e-mailing the existing spreadsheet. The agency cannot attempt to charge a per-page amount for a paper copy when it has an electronic copy that can be easily provided at nearly no cost. However, if the agency has a paper-only copy of a record and the requestor requests an Adobe Acrobat PDF copy, the agency incurs an actual cost in scanning the record (if the agency has a scanner at its offices). Therefore, an agency can establish a scanning fee for records it scans. Agencies are encouraged to compare their scanning and other copying charges to the rates of outside vendors. See WAC 44-14-07001.

So, a public hospital district, if it has a scanner, should adopt a scanning fee based on the actual costs incurred in scanning documents.