Thursday, February 09, 2012

Dr. Dolores Gunn Replies

Mr. Hannegan:

Thank you for your inquiry regarding Tobacco Free St. Louis, its activities, and our relationship with the organization.

In 2009, as you are probably aware, the Saint Louis County Department of Health applied to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for two Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grants – one focusing on tobacco control and prevention and one focusing on obesity prevention.  In the end, the department was only awarded one of those two grants – a $7.6 million grant to fund tobacco control and prevention efforts.

For the tobacco program application, CDC required applicants to either identify an existing local tobacco control coalition to work with or describe how they were going to build a local tobacco control coalition.  The department identified the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition as an existing local tobacco control coalition.

In order to meet some of our grant deliverables, the department contracted with Saint Louis University to act as fiscal agent for monies being expended in the community through the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition.  This aspect of our program is being run by Pat Lindsey, a long-time employee of the University.

The Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition was one of three organizations specifically written into the department’s grant application.  The other two were the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at Washington University (to provide program evaluation services) and Young Choices, Inc. (to provide anti-smoking presentations to school children).

The Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition is a 501(c)(3) organization with its own sources of revenue and its own ongoing activities.  Those funds and activities are kept entirely separate from grant-funded activities.  The Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition maintains its own bank account for its independent fundraising and expenditures, whereas all grant-funded activities pass through Saint Louis University, which, as I mentioned previously, is acting as the fiscal agent for these monies.  This is a standard practice for this type of situation.

Our contract with Saint Louis University for the implementation of grant-funded activities by the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition is for $545,148.  The contract includes a detailed budget, a detailed scope of work, and all necessary Federal ARRA reporting requirements.  All coalition staff working on grant activities and paid by grant funds are, therefore, employees of Saint Louis University and receive their paychecks from the same.  To my knowledge, the University and the activities being managed on our behalf by Ms. Lindsey are fully in compliance with the contract and all applicable federal laws and reporting requirements.

The budget for our grant-funded activities at Saint Louis University is as follows:

Contracted Services

Any questions about the funding and activities of the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition that are outside of the grant deliverables will need to be addressed by that organization as they are out of our purview.

In general, the grant-funded activities of the Tobacco Free St. Louis coalition include:

·         The development of education and advocacy campaigns designed to educate the County Council and the general public about the need to remove exemptions from St. Louis County’s current smoke-free ordinance.
·         Working with our media team on a counter-marketing campaign focused on middle and high school youth.
·         Providing education and advocacy support in the effort to increase the number of municipalities that enact smoke-free policies that exceed the county ordinance.
·         Working with the CPPW team leaders on policy change in K-12 schools and colleges and universities.
·         Working with the CPPW team leaders to develop graphic warning signs to be used in a retailer-focused initiative to prevent underage tobacco use

Although their work is not yet complete, the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition has already achieved significant success in key areas of its overall scope of work.  Among the highlights are:

·         Successfully supported six (6) local colleges and universities in developing stronger campus tobacco policies. Those include:  Washington University, Fontbonne University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Harris-Stowe State University, Maryville University, and St. Louis Community College (all campuses).
·         Conducted visits to tobacco retailers to educate and inform them about the new FDA laws and regulations regarding the sale and distribution of tobacco products.
·         Developed, enhanced, and maintained an interactive website ( and Facebook page.
·         Developed written and electronic informational and educational materials about the effects of secondhand smoke, the economic and health inequities associated with exemptions, and public support for removing exemptions.
·         Disseminated this information to their members, policy makers, and the public.
·         Tested air quality in selected restaurants and bars and publicized results.
·         Assisted the department and other community partners to promote the adoption of comprehensive tobacco free policies in primary and secondary schools and school districts in St. Louis County.

In our initial grant application to the CDC, the department stated the following about Tobacco Free St. Louis:

“TFMO-STL, a 501 c (3) has worked successfully on smoke-free air policies at worksites, in communities, and at the County level. TFMO-STL was a leader in the passage of smoke-free ordinances for the County and the municipalities of Ballwin, Clayton, and Kirkwood. The Coalition assisted many major County businesses with tobacco-free policies including Boeing, SSM healthcare, and Missouri Botanical Gardens. They also worked with two of the major universities in the area to implement similar policies. DOH believed the collective voice and vitality of TFMO-STL was critical to continuation of positive steps forward in creating broad-based policy and environmental changes. For that reason, funding for key administrative positions for the TFMO-STL coalition was included in our proposal.”

As we look back over the almost two years since the effective date of our contract with the Tobacco Free St. Louis Coalition through Saint Louis University (it became effective on May 3rd, 2010), I think we made the right choice in working with this coalition and I think their record of achievement demonstrates that.

Thank you again for your inquiry.  Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide.


Dolores J. Gunn, MD
Director, Saint Louis County Department of Health

Dear Dr. Gunn,

Thank you for your very detailed answer to my inquiry concerning Tobacco Free St. Louis, and especially for the honest admission that Tobacco Free St. Louis is engaged in lobbying prohibited of 501(c)(3) organizations.  See the areas below highlighted in yellow. I believe a mistake was made when a 501c3 such as Tobacco Free St. Louis was selected to conduct extensive lobbying activity in St. Louis County. The only way to remedy the situation now would be for Tobacco Free St. Louis to give up its lobbying assignments or abandon its 501c3 status.


Bill Hannegan

Mr. Hannegan:

My response did not contain an, “honest admission that Tobacco Free St. Louis is engaged in lobbying prohibited of 501(c)(3) organizations.”  Your assertion that it did is inaccurate.  My exact quote was, “To my knowledge, the University and the activities being managed on our behalf by Ms. Lindsey are fully in compliance with the contract andall applicable federal laws and reporting requirements.

You have confused activities that are legally permissible for 501(c)(3) organizations (such as education and advocacy) with lobbying.  They are not the same.  I would suggest you contact the IRS for a clarification on how they define each of these terms and activities.

Dolores J. Gunn, MD
Director, Saint Louis County Department of Health

Dr. Gunn,
According to IRS rules "no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation... An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.",,id=163392,00.html
Clearly one of the main jobs assigned to Tobacco Free St. Louis was the altering of existing public smoking ordinances in St. Louis County. That sort of assignment is not permitted to 501(c)(3) organizations. The Health Department chose the wrong group for this task.
Bill Hannegan