While Salt Lake City Hall employees in search of a cigarette must take refuge in the parking garage or the streets, the city council chairman and a council staff member still enjoy their tobacco inside their offices.
Why are smoking city employees banished to the out-of-doors while Chairman Tom Godfrey and Exective Assistant Linda Hamilton can indulge in the comfort of their city offices?"I don't know, but I expect they believe they're not subject to administrative rulings," said Phil Erickson, the executive assistant to Mayor Palmer DePaulis who oversees building operations at City Hall.
That's true, according to Godfrey. The administrative rule barring smoking within the city's headquarters, which went into effect Feb. 1, 1987, after being signed by DePaulis, does not affect the city council, a legislative body separate from the mayor's executive branch, he said.
"There are rulings for the council, and there are administrative rulings; and so there are some things that the administration can rule on, and that's fine, and it doesn't affect the council," Godfrey said.
All legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress, have the authority to establish their own rules apart from those set up by their respective executive branches, Hamilton said.
"We're able to establish our own policies and procedures," she said.
City Attorney Roger Cutler called the issue of whether the council is subject to administrative rulings, in this case, the smoking ban, a "tricky question" of "acute separation of powers." By law, the council has the right to establish its own policies and procedures independent of the mayor's office. But the mayor also has the executive privilege of administering City Hall and its offices.
Does a smoky council office offend Godfrey and Hamilton's colleagues? Not personally, said Councilman Willie Stoler, who used to share a Salt Lake police patrol car with a cigar-smoking partner.
"But philosophically, you have to honor the right of other people; the rule is set up for that," he said.
Councilwoman Sydney Fonnesbeck is "extremely disturbed" by smoking, which she said her smoking colleagues take well into consideration. But asking them to leave the building to smoke a cigarette is an impractical request that would interfere with city business, she said.
City Hall officials termed the smoking ban prohibiting smoking in all office space leased by the city a "health issue" when it was signed in 1987. Officials cited numerous court cases upholding the rights of non-smokers to work in an environment free of passive smoke.