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"The law under which these payments have been heretofore allowed is as follows:
"Section 4405, Revised Statutes. The supervising inspectors and the Supervising Inspector General shall assemble as a board once in each year in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, on the third Wednesday in January, and at such other times as the Secretary of Commerce and Labor shall prescribe in joint consultation
"The permanent appropriation for the expenses of this service is made in section 4461, Revised Statutes, as follows:
"The salaries of the Supervising Inspector-General, of all supervising inspectors, local inspectors, assistant inspectors and clerks provided for by this title, together with the traveling and other expenses when on official duty, and all instruments, books, blanks, stationery, furniture, and other things necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this title, shall be paid for, under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury, out of revenues received into the Treasury from the . inspection of steam vessels and the licensing of the officers of such vessels, which revenues, or so much of them as may be necessary for these purposes, shall be permanently appropriated therefor.'
"Section 4405, Revised Statutes, given above, provides for annual meeting of the supervising inspectors of steam vessels in Washington. Section 4461, Revised Statutes, given above, provides for the payment of the expenses of the service generally.
"The method of providing quarters for the meetings of this board, which has long been followed, seems to be based upon sound considerations of economy and the welfare of the service. No other method of dealing with the matter is conceived which is entitled upon any consideration to preference over the established one. Permanent quarters, if provided, would stand vacant a large part of the year, and the construction heretofore placed upon the law whereby the act of March 3, 1877, already quoted, is not held to apply to this case, seems to be based upon wise consideration of the public service."
In considering the question of the weight to be given to a practice in contravention of law in 5 Comp. Dec., 450, I said:
"So far as I am aware, this practice of the Auditor for the Post-Office Department is quite exceptional. It certainly has not prevailed with any other Auditor since the act of July 31, 1894, went into operation, and upon inquiry I have not been able to learn of a single instance of the kind prior to that time. But even if the practice had been uniform with all the Auditors, it would have no weight. It is only when the meaning of a statute is doubtful or ambiguous that a con
temporaneous construction by a long-continued and uniform practice is entitled as such to consideration. But a practice by a Department or office, no matter how long continued, can not contravene the plain meaning of a statute. (The Swift Company v. United States, 105 U. S., 691; United States v. Graham, 110 U. S., 219, 221; United States v. Alger 152 U. S., 384, 397.)"
Under a general statute like that under consideration herein, which is applicable to all branches of the Government, the practice of one Department in a single branch among numerous branches could have very little weight, even if it were not in direct contravention of an express prohibition of the statute.
I can not concur with the Secretary of Commerce and Labor that the prohibition applies only "to officers of the Government whose duty and employment are wholly in the District of Columbia, and has no reference to those officers whose duties are beyond the limits of said District and who are called to Washington for special duty at widely separated periods of time." The terms of the provision prohibit the renting of any building, or part of any building, " to be used for the purposes of the Government" in the District of Columbia. The words "the purposes of Government" are comprehensive and embrace all branches of the Government, and I think they apply to all uses for such purposes whether temporary or permanent.
Nor do I think the language of the permanent appropriation for the expenses of the Steamboat-Inspection Service contained in section 4461 of the Revised Statutes, quoted by the Secretary of Commerce and Labor in his communication, can properly be construed as providing "in terms" for the rent of any building in the District of Columbia. The words therein "and other things necessary" must be read in connection with the "things" specified immediately preceding them, namely, "instruments, books, blanks, stationery, furniture," and the general words "and other things necessary must be regarded as having reference to things of like character to those specified.
I have the honor, therefore, to advise you that I see no reason to change my prior decision.
CONTINUOUS SERVICE PAY.
Where an enlisted man of the Navy was discharged at his own request, with recommendation for reenlistment, prior to the expiration of his term of enlistment but after service of more than three years, to enable him to accept an appointment as pay clerk, he is entitled upon reenlisting within four months from the time of his discharge to the continuous service pay provided for by the act of March 3, 1899. (Decision by Assistant Comptroller Mitchell, May 12, 1905.)
R. Dillman, chief yeoman, United States Navy, appealed April 3, 1905, from the action of the Auditor for the Navy Department in settlement dated March 11, 1905, disallowing his claim for continuous service pay at the rate of $1.36 per month from July 13 to August 31, 1903, amounting to $2.18.
The claim was disallowed because
"Claimant was discharged from the service before the expiration of his term of enlistment and at his own request in order that he might accept an appointment as a paymaster's clerk. Not having completed his term of service claimant is therefore not entitled to the increased pay provided by the act of March 3, 1899."
It appears that the claimant enlisted June 27, 1899, to serve for four years, and was discharged March 15, 1903, before the expiration of his term of enlistment, to enable him to accept an appointment as pay clerk, receiving an ordinary discharge with a recommendation for reenlistment. He resigned from said office May 20, 1903, and reenlisted as chief yeoman on July 13, 1903, within four months from the date of his discharge.
Section 16 of the act of March 3, 1899 (30 Stat., 1008), provides:
"That hereafter the term of enlistment of all enlisted men of the Navy shall be four years: and that any man
who has received an honorable discharge from his last term of enlistment, or who has received a recommendation for reenlistment upon the expiration of his last term of service of not less than three years, who reenlists for a term of four years within four months from the date of his discharge, shall receive an increase of one dollar and thirty-six cents per month to the pay prescribed for the rating in which he serves for each consecutive reenlistment."
The Secretary of the Navy in his indorsement of July 29, 1903, expresses the opinion that Dillman is entitled to the continuous-service pay claimed.
The primary object of this act is to encourage the prompt reenlistment of desirable men, and as it is a beneficial act it should receive a liberal construction.
As the claimant received a recommendation for reenlistment upon his discharge after a service of more than three years, and reenlisted within four months from the date of said discharge, I am of the opinion that he is entitled to the pay provided by said act.
The action of the Auditor is disapproved.
TRAVELING EXPENSES OF AN EMPLOYEE OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT.
The War Department having, at the request of the Isthmian Canal Commission, ordered an employee of the Medical Department of the Army to proceed from his station in the Philippine Islands to the Isthmus of Panama, with the understanding that upon his arrival there he would be employed by the Commission, and having assumed liability for his traveling expenses, is entitled to reimbursement thereof out of the appropriation for the canal.
(Comptroller Tracewell to Theodore P. Shonts, chairman of Isthmian Canal Commission, May 12, 1905.)
In a communication of the chief of office of the Isthmian Canal Commission of May 10, 1905, by your direction he requests my decision of a question which he therein presents, as follows:
"I have the honor to request a decision by you upon the following question:
"In June, 1904, the chairman of the Commission requested the War Department to order Mr. Charles Parker, a clerk in the Medical Department, United States Army, to proceed from his station in the Philippine Islands to Panama and report for duty to the chief sanitary officer of the Isthmian Canal Commission. Mr. Parker was directed to do so, and arrived at Panama September 12, 1904, and was given an appointment of that date as clerk in the sanitary department of the Commission at a salary of $1,400 per annum. His transportation was provided by the War Department, and that Department's
application for a transfer of appropriations to reimburse it for transportation ($100) from Manila to San Francisco has been approved by the Commission.
"While awaiting a steamer at San Francisco and while en route from that point to Panama Mr. Parker incurred expenses amounting to $21.65, as shown by itemized statement herewith. The Commission approves the expenses and wishes to pay the same from its appropriation, Canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans,' if you decide that the same can be legally done."
From this statement of facts it appears that Mr. Parker technically performed the travel described while a clerk in the Medical Department of the Army and under orders of the War Department. But I do not understand from your communication that it was the intention in fact that he was making the travel in question as part of his duty as clerk in the Medical Department, United States Army, but that the order to make this travel was a method employed to get him to Panama at the request of your Commission, and make it feasible for the military authorities to furnish him transportation, payable out of their appropriation, which it is now sought to reimburse.
It is the general rule that persons employed or appointed to the civil service of the Government must bear the expense of originally getting to the place where the office is located to which they are appointed or employed. The exception to this rule is where the compensation of such officers or clerks is paid from lump sums and it is part of the agreement of appointment or employment that the travel expenses of such, as part of their compensation, is to be borne by the Government in getting them to the place where they are to perform their service.
It is only by inference that I am able to arrive at the conclusion that it was part of the agreement with Mr. Parker that, so far as the War Department is concerned, his traveling expenses would be paid from Manila to Panama. You do not affirmatively state such to be the fact, but I take it that a request to the War Department to order, or, in other words, to furnish, transportation at its cost in order to enable you to get a person from Manila to Panama to enter your service could be understood in no other light than an implied promise on the part of your Commission to reimburse it for its reasonable expenses in complying with your request; in other words,