Legislator Proposes Strengthening Law Against Tax Money for Initiatives

Legislator Proposes Strengthening Law Against Tax Money for Initiatives

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FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) -- A legislator who contends public funds were wrongfully used to support a fluoridation initiative proposes to clarify and strengthen the law prohibiting such use of tax dollars.

State Sen. David Thomas, R-South Weber and chief civil deputy Summit County attorney, said Davis County health officials spent money on newspaper ads, polls and brochures.

He said that is contrary to a long-standing statute in state.

"The one thing the statute doesn't have is a penalty clause," he said.

Thomas said the upcoming revote on water fluoridation is part of the reason for the bill. He doesn't want the health department taking out more newspaper ads like one that ran disputing estimated costs to install the new system.

"I think those kinds of advertisements turned the tide," he said.

Thomas wants to make sure the definition of "public entity" includes health departments. He also wants to make it a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, to violate the law.

Chief Civil Deputy Davis County Attorney Gerald Hess said the health department is part of the county and already is subject to the rules on spending for ballot initiatives. He cited a section of the election code that makes all violations a class B misdemeanor unless otherwise specified.

"It seems to me that the statute is pretty clear as it is, and by adding that language it doesn't add anything to what's already there," he said.

In March 2000, Hess sent a letter to Richard Harvey, acting health director at the time, who wanted to know how public funds could be used regarding the fluoride ballot initiative.

Thomas cited the state law against such spending, but did say that it would be appropriate to prepare information for a voter information pamphlet.

Thomas asked why Davis County has not pursued any charges against Harvey if that's true.

Hess said the answer probably is that his office hasn't received a criminal complaint about the matter.

Lewis Garrett, current director of the health department, said he agrees with Hess and would not spend public funds to promote fluoride.

Last month, the health board passed a resolution supporting fluoride in the county water system.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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