FARMINGTON — Fluoride opponents have won a big battle in the Davis County fluoridation feud. A county attorney shot down Tuesday a legal argument by proponents that the process to force a revote was unlawful.
As a result, voters will be given the opportunity to revote on the fluoridation issue in the Nov. 5 general election.
“It”s a victory for freedom,” said fluoride opponent Helen Watts of the Davis County Commission”s decision to follow the recommendation of Chief Civil Deputy Gerald Hess and allow the revote to move forward.
Utahns for Better Dental Health had claimed the signature initiative petition organized by fluoridation opponents was unlawful because it followed the wrong section of Utah law, and the time needed for the group to prepare a referendum with the county clerk”s office to challenge the November 2000 vote approving fluoridation had elapsed.
In November 2000, voters by a 52 to 48 percent margin approved adding one part per million of fluoride to drinking water systems.
Since that time, south Davis cities — with the exception of Woods Cross which has a functionally separate water system from the rest of the county, and Centerville, which is experiencing fluoridation delays because of costs — have implemented fluoridation.
Those cities from Farmington north, however, have until this fall to implement fluoridation. The delay was a result of engineering difficulties Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has been experiencing.
But Hess” opinion of state law is that a referendum initiative is needed when addressing a law passed by the county commission. He said the commission never adopted drinking water fluoridation as law, therefore, the initiative prepared by fluoride opponents was adequate.
Hess said based on previous case law and the election laws covered in the state constitution, the masses are provided the right to petition for a revote. He said this is something courts have supported.
“Courts have picked up on that language in the constitution and have allowed the initiative process to go forward,” he said, citing a case in South Jordan.
“The courts do not look at the wisdom of the initiative being proposed, but the process,” he said.
As a result, Hess said he did not view proponents” challenge of the 9,650 signature petition as a compelling argument to deny the petitioners.
Hess did recommend, however, the commission show neutrality by not adopting the opponents” petition.
“I do believe neutrality is important” for the commission, Commissioner Dan McConkie said. McConkie is one of five county elected officials who signed the fluoride opponents” petition.
Fluoridation proponent David Irvine, an attorney, then asked if he could speak to Hess” legal opinion, but he was denied by McConkie who declared early in the meeting that they were not going to allow the merits of fluoridation to be discussed by either side.
Those health officials attending Tuesday”s meeting were not shocked by the commission”s decision to allow the revote process to continue.
“I”m not surprised,” said Davis County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett.
Garrett said he believes several legal questions do remain unanswered and he is uncertain how Utahns for Better Dental Health will react, but he will now work to defeat the revote at the polls.
“As far as the revote, this question has been asked of the voters once, and in Centerville twice,” he said.
Garrett said his message to voters is that a lot of money has been spent to implement fluoridation and now is not the time to change direction.
“We are way down the road of making this happen,” he said.