Is Mission Viejo's ban on sex offenders in city parks legal?
Neighboring Lake Forest repealed their ban on the advice of attorney Scott C. Smith Tuesday night. He said defending the ordinance could leave the city vulnerable to lawsuits and estimated it would cost a quarter of a million dollars or more to defend in court.
There's been no talk of repealing Mission Viejo's ordinance, Mayor Pro Tempore Trish Kelley said.
She said she still supports the ban, which was unanimously approved in Oct. 2011 after being proposed by Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas proposed similar ordinances throughout Orange County.
"I think the intent and the thought behind the ordinance, the concept of having an extra tool to protect our children is a good one," she said. "There was a good reason we voted for and implemented that ordinance."
But she said the city could be forced to repeal it, like they were forced to repeal their immigration status check law in 2011.
"I think if it is not legal or if it’s being challenged legally then we need to always stay within the law," she said. "We ran into the same kind of program with the (immigration check) program. We really liked our ordinance, but you have to be in compliance with the state law, whether we like it or not."
The sex ordinance ban looks good on paper, but doesn't work in practice, said Councilman Dave Leckness.
"In theory it's a great policy. Is it enforceable? No. It makes you feel good, but in reality it doesn't mean much."
Leckness voted for the ban, but questioned Rackauckas on a number of points.
Both said they hadn't heard anyone planning to repeal the ban, nor had the city been threatened by lawsuits from any sex offenders so far as they knew.
Rackauckas recommended the law based on a case in Fullerton in which a sex offender inherited a house next to a park.
Councilman Frank Ury was contacted by e-mail Wednesday, but has not responded.