Fluoride Action Network

Centerville to ignore Fluoridation Referendum in order to avoid Litigation

Source: Standard Examiner | Standard-Examiner correspondent
Posted on October 6th, 2001
Location: United States, Utah

CENTERVILLE — The City Council will ignore the results of its upcoming citywide fluoride vote, even if the majority of residents vote against adding fluoride to Centerville”s water. The decision is an effort to avoid “expensive and needless litigation.”

In a draft copy the city intends to publish in its voter information pamphlet on fluoride, the city states, “. . . We do not believe the initiative could become effective. . .” and “We oppose this initiative because it is contrary to state law and will likely involve our city in expensive and needless litigation.”

That litigation, the city fears, could come from either the county enforcing its fluoridation order should the majority of Centerville residents vote against fluoridation and the city honor that vote, or a lawsuit from a citizen group fighting fluoride should Centerville ignore the results, said Assistant City Attorney Lisa Romney.

“It puts Centerville in a very difficult position. Centerville is bound by the countywide vote. Regardless of the outcome of the (upcoming) November vote, it cannot become law. So why even put it before the citizens?” Romney said.”

It’s unfortunate for voters, because it is raising the expectation that they will change the law when we have already asked and answered this question. Even if this initiative passes, it is a violation of the law for us not to carry out fluoridation.”

And the city’s fears of county enforcement of its fluoridation order with litigation are not unfounded.

“I would hope it wouldn’t come to that. But if necessary, we would take that provision before a judge,” said Davis County Health Director Lewis Garrett, who said the election held by the county last year was done according to strict code. The results were binding, he said.

“Regardless of what (Centerville”s) outcome is, it is not going to be binding. It is nothing more than an opinion,” said Garrett of the upcoming referendum.

City Manager Steve Thacker confirmed that the City Council would likely ignore the results of the Nov. 6 referendum.

Centerville may have qualified for fluoride exemption if a majority of residents had voted against its implementation, but it passed by a narrow majority in last year”s countywide vote. The city also receives one-third of its water supply from Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, and thus does not qualify as having a separate water system, which is another legal requirement, according to Romney.

However, a majority of 44 votes was not enough of a majority to satisfy citizen activist Richard Brown, who gathered the needed signatures to place the issue on the ballot. “Last year we were caught with our pants down and we didn”t do as much to fight it, but this time we’re going to prove that Centerville does not want fluoride.”

Centerville will spend $1,500 to publish and distribute the voter information pamphlet and has spent “several thousand dollars” involving its city attorney on the issue, according to Thacker. Thacker called the spending of taxpayer money on the referendum “unfortunate.”

But Brown denied that the re-vote was simply a waste of taxpayers” money on an issue that had already been decided. He said he did not intend to use litigation against the city if it chose to ignore the election results.

“Maybe by itself the Centerville vote won”t change the fact that the county can force us to fluoridate,” said Brown, who also questioned whether the basis of the fluoridation directive was valid, “but what we”re going to accomplish is we”re going to derail this thing (on a countywide level).”