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AGO Opinion 98050

Credit Union Act; Formation of and Membership in Central Credit Unions
Opinion 98050


DATE: December 3, 1998

SUBJECT: Credit Union Act; Formation of and Membership in Central Credit Unions




REQUESTED BY: Peter M. Graff, Director Department of Banking and Finance




WRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General

Fredrick F. Neid, Assistant Attorney General




You have asked two questions relating to the formation and

membership of central credit unions in this state. The first

question posed is whether more than one central credit union can be

chartered by the State of Nebraska under the provisions of the

Credit Union Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 21-1701 to 21-17,116 (1997).

It is our opinion that the statutory provisions authorize the

formation of one or more central credit unions chartered by the

State of Nebraska.




By way of background, central credit unions may be formed by

credit unions organized and existing under the Credit Union Act.

The membership is broad-based and includes state and federally

chartered credit unions, certain organizations, and employee

groups. You have related that a state chartered central credit

union is operating in Omaha, Nebraska.




At the outset, we point out that the legislative intent is not

clearly manifested in the statutory provisions nor is any found in

the legislative history with respect to the issues you have raised.

The formation requirements of a central credit union are generally

described in the statutes in a singular sense. Neb. Rev. Stat.

§ 21-1752 (1997) in particular part provides:




Credit unions organized and existing under the Credit Union

Act may organize and have membership in a central credit

union to which federal credit unions organized and operating

in this state may belong and in which officials of both such

credit unions may have membership. . . . (Emphasis added).




Other provisions of the Credit Union Act relating to a central

credit union use the singular number with reference to the

organizational requirements. See Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 21-1753 to 21-

1756 (1997).




While the statutory language refers to "a central credit

union" in the singular, we think the meaning extends to more than

one central credit union. It is a recognized principle of

statutory construction that singular words may extend and be

applied to several persons or objects. See, e.g., Lux v. Mental

Health Board of Polk County, 202 Neb. 106, 274 N.W.2d 141 (1979);

Moser v. Turner, 180 Neb. 635, 144 N.W.2d 192 (1966). This rule

has been codified in Neb. Rev. Stat. § 49-802 (1993), which in

material part states:




Statutes; general rules of construction. Unless such

construction would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of

the Legislature, rules for construction of the statutes of

Nebraska hereinafter shall be as follows:




. . . (6) Singular words may extend and be applied to several

persons or things as well as to one person or thing.




Thus, the use of singular words in the statutes does not limit

the formation of a central credit to one such entity. This

conclusion is supported by the fact that the provisions of the

Credit Union Act relating to the formation of "a credit union" also

employ singular words. See Neb. Rev. Stat. § 21-1724 (1997)

(authorizing the organization of "a credit union"). However, the

provisions of the Credit Union Act have long been interpreted and

applied to permit the organization of multiple credit unions and,

indeed, credit unions have been organized throughout the state. It

is our view that the consistent application of the provisions of

the Credit Union Act support the formation and organization of more

than one central credit union.




The second question you ask is whether credit union and small

employee groups "must" choose a single central credit union to

belong to or whether a credit union may belong to multiple central

credit unions at the same time. After review, we conclude credit

unions and certain employee groups are limited to membership in one

central credit union.




As we have pointed out above, the statutory language provides

little indicia as to the number of central credit unions that may

be organized. Similarly, the statutory provisions and history of

the Act do not address multiple membership issues. Our conclusion,

in part, is based on the language used in § 21-1752 which in

relevant part provides:




. . . Organizations which are organized for the purpose of

furthering credit union activities and their employees may

have membership in such credit union. Small employee groups

of fifty or more employees have a common bond of occupation

whose probability of a successful operation would be limited

because of the lack of adequate membership may join as a group

in the central credit union and become members of that credit

union with all the rights existing under the act.




It seems to us that the phrases, "membership in such credit

union," and "may join . . . in the central credit union and become

members of that credit union . . . " have reference to a particular

credit union and thus restricts membership to one central credit

union. As noted above, this interpretation is consistent with the

application of the other provisions of the Act.




Our conclusion is also based on the concept of "common bond"

requirements for membership in a particular credit union. Neb.

Rev. Stat. § 21-1743 (1997) in part states:




Membership; requirements. (1) . . . Credit union organization

shall be limited to groups of both large and small membership

having a common bond of occupation or association, including

religious, social, or educational groups, employees of a

common employer, or members of a fraternal, religious, labor,

form, or educational organization and the members of the

immediate families of such persons.




(2) A person having been duly admitted to membership, having

complied with the Credit Union Act, the articles of

association, and the bylaws, having paid the entrance fee, and

having paid for at least one share, shall retain full rights

and privileges of membership for life unless the membership is

terminated by withdrawal or expulsion in the manner provided

by the act.




Multiple membership in more than one central credit union

would in a certain sense undercut the common bond requirements

which generally restrict membership of individuals to one credit

union.




In construing statutes, the courts determine and give effect

to the purpose and intent of the legislature as ascertained from

the entire language of the statute itself. Sanitary & Imp. Dist.

No. 1 of Fillmore County, Neb. v. Nebraska Public Power Dist. , 253

Neb. 917, 573 N.W.2d 460 (1998); Abboud v. Papio-Missouri Natural

Resources Dist., 253 Neb. 514, 571 N.W.2d 302 (1997). Further,

components of a series or collection of statutes pertaining to

certain subject matter may be conjunctively considered and

construed to determine intent of the legislature so that different

provisions of an act are consistent, harmonious and sensible. In

re Involuntary Dissolution of Battle Creek State Bank, 254 Neb.

120, 575 N.W.2d 356 (1998); Slagle v. J.P. Theisen & Sons, Inc.,

251 Neb. 904, 560 N.W.2d 758 (1997).




Application of these accepted rules of statutory

interpretation support the conclusion that more than one central

credit union may be organized and that organizations and

individuals described in § 21-1752 are limited to membership in one

central credit union. To conclude otherwise would necessitate

legislative clarification.




Sincerely,




Don Stenberg

Attorney General








Fredrick F. Neid

Assistant Attorney General