Update: Judges rule smoking ban question out; county police dept. item in
By: Michael R. Smith
In St. Charles County rulings by different judges on Tuesday, Sept. 25, decided to leave two questions about a smoking ban off the Nov. 6 ballot, while the question to convert the sheriff’s department to a police department remains on.
Election Authority Director Rich Chrismer had pulled the smoking questions off the ballot because he said inconsistencies between them, the ordinance placing them on the ballot, and the wording which would have changed the county charter were inconsistent.
Circuit Judge Ted House’s decision on Tuesday, Chrismer said, validated his decision to remove the ballot questions. “The resolution did not match the language on the ballot,” Chrismer said. “My authority was valid.” He said that House told the court that the issue “has nothing to do with smoking. It has everything to do with procedure and law.”
Chrismer also said he “was happy for the voters. It’s important the people understand what the options are.”
This was the third time since spring 2011 that the County Council has tried to put the issue before voters. Chrismer said, “They (the council) should have been able to get the language right. It was a casualty of rushing to get it on the ballot.”
County resident Don Young of St. Charles brought the lawsuit against Chrismer, contending that he acted improperly in removing the ballot questions. Young is a throat cancer survivor, former smoker, and anti-smoking activist. No appeal is planned.
Judge Nancy Schneider ruled to leave a ballot question before voters that asks whether the current Sheriff’s Department should become a police department similar to the one in St. Louis County. The conversion would mean officers would patrol the unincorporated parts of the county. The Sheriff’s Department would become a smaller division within it to handle court functions. A sheriff would still be elected but the police chief would be appointed by the county executive with input from a citizen’s committee.
A.C. Dienoff of O’Fallon monitors county government activities and filed a lawsuit to block the ballot question. He cited language inconsistencies between it and the ordinance putting it on the ballot, as well as procedural problems.
Dienoff represented himself in the suit but used Chrismer as a witness.
“I believe he (Dienoff) made a very clear argument that the ordinance says ‘or’ – that we have either a police department or a sheriff’s department,” Chrismer said. “The ballot language doesn’t say that. The ballot language says ‘and.’”
Dienoff has also said that the proposal doesn’t provide a cost to voters for making the changes.
Schneider ruled against him on both points, allowing the question to be decided by voters.