By KEVIN ALLEN - Follow me @KevinAllenSBT
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
11:29 PM EDT, July 23, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- The Common Council didn't vote Monday on a proposal to ban smoking in the city's bars.
The council did, however, approve a related bill that will require many establishments to post signs on their entrances to tell the public whether or not smoking is allowed inside.
Dr. David Varner, R-5th, sponsored the measure, which builds on new statewide smoking rules that took effect July 1 in Indiana.
The state ban prohibits people from lighting up in most public places and workplaces, but it exempts bars, casinos, private clubs and tobacco shops.
Varner's proposal will require those exempted establishments in South Bend to display signs that tell people if smoking is or isn't allowed inside. The signs need to be at least 8 inches by 10 inches in size and can be printed for free at www.in.gov/atc.
Three council members -- Valerie Schey, D-3rd; Dr. Fred Ferlic, D-4th; and Gavin Ferlic, D-at large -- voted against Varner's bill because they want the city to enact a comprehensive ban to protect all workers from secondhand smoke.
"This isn't exactly the enhancement of the state legislation that some people would like to see," Varner said, "but I think, ultimately, this allows adults to make their own decisions about whether or not to occupy a building where smoking is allowed."
Any business that allows smoking but doesn't follow the sign rules could be fined $250 for a first offense and $500 for all subsequent offenses.
Council members voted unanimously to appropriate $100,000 for a popular program to clean up illegal dump sites in city neighborhoods.
The council set aside $60,000 for the program in November and put in another $130,000 in January to keep it operating through the end of June.
The additional $100,000 will ensure a four-person crew continues picking up the mounds of trash through the end of this year.
Catherine Toppel, the city's director of code enforcement, said the crew has picked up more than 4.4 million pounds of debris since the program started last fall.
The council also voted unanimously for a bill that would shield whistle-blowers in city government.
The measure was written in reaction to a recent incident at the South Bend Police Department. Officer Jack Stilp filed a report in May that claimed Tim Corbett, commander of the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit, made threatening comments to him in a phone call. It's possible the alleged comments related to a federal investigation into phone recordings at the department.
The bill council members approved Monday would protect city employees from retaliation for filing complaints or reports about fellow employees.
Council members voted June 25 in favor of seeking a private attorney to offer an advisory opinion on whether that recent recording scandal in the police department qualifies as wiretapping. The case led to the demotion of former Chief Darryl Boykins and the firing of police communications director Karen DePaepe.
The council's officers -- President Derek Dieter, D-at large; Vice President Oliver Davis, D-6th; and Karen White, D-at large -- selected local law firm May Oberfell Lorber on Monday.
E. Spencer Walton Jr., a partner with the firm, will be the primary attorney on the matter.
Staff writer Kevin Allen:
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