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2011 St. Charles County Year in Review

ROY SYKES / JOURNAL Don Young and his wife Kay, along with Christy Dreiling and other Smoke-Free O'Fallon members, celebrate the April 5, 2011, passage of Proposition S, which bans smoking indoors at public places in O'Fallon.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • An anti-smoking activist launched a last-ditch legal push Friday to return a countywide smoking ban package to the Nov. 6 ballot.

Don Young, a throat cancer survivor and former smoker, filed suit in St. Charles County Circuit Court to try to force County Elections Director Rich Chrismer to put the two-proposition package back on the ballot.

Circuit Judge Ted House set a hearing for Tuesday morning on the issue. Tuesday also is the last day under state law that a judge can add something to the ballot.

The suit was filed following County Councilman Joe Cronin's suggestion last week that a public health group should go to court on behalf of the propositions after the council declined to sue Chrismer. Young, of St. Charles, didn't say Friday whether any such group was helping to pay his legal fees.

The council voted Aug. 27 to put the two questions on the ballot, but Chrismer refused to do so, citing inconsistent and confusing wording. Young asserted in his suit that Chrismer has a "clear legal duty" to follow the council's directive and is "unilaterally denying voters the right to vote" on the measures.

Chrismer insists that he has such authority.

Meanwhile, Troy Stremming, an Ameristar Casino executive, said his company plans to press its contention at the court hearing that the Council's propositions are legally flawed. Ameristar and a bowling alley owner had filed suit against the ballot plan prior to Chrismer's action.

Under the council's plan, residents in November would first vote on a countywide ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces with no exceptions.

A second proposition would exempt any facility where all patrons and employees are over 21; that would cover bars and casino gambling floors. The same measure would exempt private clubs and up to 20 percent of rooms in a hotel.

Ameristar officials and other critics of the council's approach worry that voters might approve the ban but defeat the exemptions.

The council chairwoman said the council didn't want to sue another county official because taxpayers would have to pay legal bills for both sides. The council will consider on Monday night a bill to correct the wording inconsistencies cited by Chrismer.

If a judge overrules Chrismer, it's unclear who would pay the $300,000-plus cost of reprinting the countywide ballots.

Meanwhile, a suit filed Thursday aims to keep off the ballot a proposition to establish a St. Charles County Police Department. The plaintiff is A.C. Dienoff of O'Fallon, a frequent candidate for office who monitors county issues.

Dienoff complained that the measure includes no cost breakdown and contends that a county charter requirement wasn't followed. Attorneys for the county couldn't be reached for comment.

The measure would move most law enforcement functions of the sheriff's department in unincorporated areas of the county to a new police agency headed by an appointed chief. An elected sheriff would remain in charge of court services and security.

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