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Sex Offender Ban Lifted, is Mission Viejo Next?

A neighboring city lifted its ban on sex offenders in city parks. Will Mission Viejo follow suit?

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Neighboring Lake Forest repealed their ban on the advice of attorney Scott C. Smith Tuesday night.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.

Dan Avery December 07, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Councilmember Leckness is correct. It's a feel good. But it has no teeth. It's not like sex offenders wear colors and headbands so they can be identified as easily as a gang member. The law itself is pretty much a slippery slope, obviously. Where does one draw the line?
Shripathi Kamath December 07, 2012 at 06:48 PM
At the $250,000 it will cost per lawsuit to defend this unconstitutional wingnuttery. Maybe somebody will do that math and find that it might be cheaper to have recall elections. The damn thing passed 5-0. So one thing we know is that no council member gets a pass on the responsibility, whether they did it for political expedience, or whether they (shudder) did it because they actually thought it was good policy.
Gloria December 07, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I am very interested in how Councilman Dave Leckness is going to reconcile his 'yes' vote with this statement: "In theory it's a great policy. Is it enforceable? No. It makes you feel good, but in reality it doesn't mean much."
Gloria December 07, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Where DOES one draw the line? Apparently at the prospect of a lawsuit defending an indefensible / illegal ordinance, to the tune of min. 250k. Maybe the right question should be (have been): Where should the line have been drawn? And the answer would have to be - at an ordinance that actually adheres to the Constitution and fills a need. Both reasons cited by the LF City Council in repealing the ordinance were the same reasons opponents of the ordinance pointed out at the time (contradiction of existing law and lack of need) - and neither has changed.
vahall December 20, 2012 at 01:23 AM
The first thing that needs to be said about laws like this is that they are a sham. There is no evidence. linking park restrictions to a reduction in sex crimes, and no way that park restrictions will do anything about the bulk of the sex-offender problem, which is the abuse of children by relatives and other people they know. The laws are simplistic, emotion-based formulas that cloak politicians in an aura of decisiveness. while doing nothing to tackle a ferociously difficult problem. The second thing is that they are a dangerous waste of law-enforcement time and resources. Police departments are already obliged under a welter of federal and state laws to register and monitor sex. offenders. Prosecutors and sheriffs around the country have complained that adding park enforcement to their large and growing offender-management portfolios only hampers their ability to fight crime. The final and most important point is that park bans send offenders underground. You may imagine these men fearsome and creepy, but if communities systematically banish them, denying them the chance to find housing and to lead stable lives under close supervision, they end up doing the logical thing. They congregate in unincorporated poor areas. Or they disappear. The laws your DA and his sidekick are trumpeting risk turning sex offenders into unstable, rootless individuals, harder to track and arguably more dangerous.

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