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Committee wants to let inspectors write tickets

Toledo's health and environmental inspectors soon may have a new tool for enforcing the city's smoking ban: the power to write smoking tickets.

An ordinance approved by a city council committee yesterday would give new police powers to 125 inspectors. The measure now goes to the full council for action.

Currently, inspectors have the power to write complaints, which they must then swear out in Toledo Municipal Court. The clerk of the court then sends the defendant a summons to come to court or pay a fine.

The new procedure would save inspectors the trouble of going to court, said John Madigan, city general counsel. Like police officers, they would write a ticket and hand it to the alleged offender.

Toledo's smoking ban took effect Aug. 24. It prohibits smoking in most bars, restaurants, and other public places in Toledo. Exempted were private clubs, private social functions, businesses with approved smoking lounges, and bars smaller than 245 square feet.

The law has two sets of enforcement procedures. Individuals can be ticketed for smoking illegally, and fined up to $100. Establishment owners can be ordered to pay for tobacco education for their staffs and themselves. They can also be cited for a misdemeanor and fined $100.

So far, about half a dozen individuals have been ticketed for smoking, said Karen Granata, chief of air resources for the division of environmental services.

Council's law and criminal justice committee held a hearing on the proposal to increase inspectors' powers yesterday, and agreed to forward it to the full council for a vote.

“This compacts things quite a bit,” Mr. Madigan said. “This will ensure the person cited actually receives notice of the court case.”

Mr. Madigan said he doubted it would lead to an upsurge in enforcement because the law is meant to be “complaint-driven” by patrons.

He told council that inspectors would be trained in how to write a ticket.

The new powers apply only to violations of the nuisance, building, health, fire, and housing codes and doesn't give inspectors the right to carry or use a firearm.

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