In December, the cities of O’Fallon, St. Peters and Lake Saint Louis filed a lawsuit against the St. Charles County government over a red-light camera ban that received 73 percent of voter support.
The lawsuit contends that the ban is counter to state laws giving municipalities control over traffic regulations within their boundaries. The charter amendment placed on the ballot by the St. Charles County Council, it says, oversteps the powers of home-rule counties in the state.
County Councilman Joe Brazil (District 2) sponsored the charter amendment ballot measure, and St. Peters Mayor Len Pagano warned that litigation was possible if the measure was placed on the ballot. Until recently, St. Peters was the only municipality in the county that had used red-light cameras, but suspended its use of the cameras last August until the Missouri Supreme Court rules on legal challenges to their use.
John Young, the attorney representing St. Peters in the litigation, said his client’s cause for concern in this case is not the issue of using red-light cameras.
“What best points that out is that we’ve got other cities that have never had those instruments (red-light cameras) in their cities participating in the litigation,” Young said.
However, a crack may have appeared in the once solid front of St. Charles County municipalities that filed that suit. A bill that would have allowed Lake Saint Louis to sign a retainer agreement for legal services in connection with the suit failed Jan. 20 to get the votes required for passage.
The city’s Board of Aldermen voted 3-2 in favor of a reading of the bill, but four votes from the six-member board were required for passage.
It was unclear whether the failure to pass the retainer agreement would change the city’s participation in the suit.
Currently, Lake Saint Louis, St. Peters, O’Fallon, Dardenne Prairie Mayor Pam Fogarty and Councilman Jim Pepper (O’Fallon-Ward 2) are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann responded to inquiries about the lawsuit with the following statement:
“The charter amendment, sent to the voters by the county council, was overwhelmingly approved by St. Charles County voters. This is not about the power of county government. This is about the power of the voters to tell city and county governments what they want. Under a charter form of government voters have every right to tell city and county governments that they do not want red-light cameras.”