Clinic sues to revive smoking
Area medical facility relies heavily on bingo proceeds, lawsuit says
A Coventry Township medical clinic says it needs smokers for its business to survive.
Perkins Square Health Services on Arlington Road is the 10th Summit County business that has asked a judge to save it from the smoking ban -- noting that its bingo fundraisers make up most of the medical clinic's revenue.
The clinic filed a complaint Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court, seeking to have the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance declared unenforceable and unconstitutional.
The law, which went into effect Tuesday, prohibits smoking in many businesses, including bars, restaurants, most private clubs and bowling alleys and some hotel rooms.
In its filing, the medical clinic claims that the law exceeds the county's authority, seeks to prohibit a legal activity and would drive smokers away from its charitable bingo fundraisers.
Neither Perkins Square Health Services Director Beverly Dearth nor the clinic's attorney David Devany returned calls for comment.
In a past Beacon Journal article, Dearth, a psychologist, said Perkins Square provides medical, psychological and educational services at the clinic, primarily to low-income people.
Bingo money subsidizes 87 percent of the operation. The remainder of the clinic's revenue comes from Medicaid and Medicare.
According to a 1992 attorney general's report, Perkins Square Health Services Inc. made $947,455 from its bingo business.
The other nine bar and restaurant owners who filed lawsuits have won agreements from County Council that the law would not be enforced against them without written notice.
Although some businesses have voluntarily gone smoke-free since the law took effect, others openly decline to support the ordinance that requires owners to post no-smoking signs, remove ashtrays and post a hot line number, 330-926-5640, for the public to report violators.
Cities including Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, New Franklin, Norton and Barberton say their own laws that permit smoking take precedence.
Further confusing the issue for the remaining townships that have been told by their health departments that they must obey the law, County Council has scheduled a March 20 vote to decide whether its implementation should be delayed until 2007.
The proposed yearlong postponement is the time many expect it will take a statewide smoking ban to pass in the legislature or be approved by voters.
The fact that the most recent smoking supporter is a medical facility was not lost on the head of the Medical Society of Greater Akron.
``It sounds like an oxymoron to me,'' said the group's president, Dr. Albert Payne. ``It's extremely contradictory to what their mission as a medical clinic should be.''
Payne said the group hasn't taken an official stand on the ordinance, but he expects one in light of the lawsuit from Perkins Square Health Services. ``I think the ban is wonderful, long overdue and will enhance the health of our community.''
Reach Kymberli Hagelberg at 330-996-3038 or firstname.lastname@example.org