A registered sex offender from Davenport has been charged with failing to register his employment as a lobbyist in Des Moines and faces up to two years in prison.
Michael Byars, 24, who is on the Iowa registry for a 2008 conviction for lascivious acts with a minor victim, told the Quad-City Times on Tuesday that the failure to register charge filed late last week is a misunderstanding.
He said he has spent months trying to lobby on behalf of legislation aimed at lifting lifetime parole status for some teenagers, himself included, who were convicted of sex crimes.
He added he isn’t being paid to be a lobbyist.
“They consider my being a lobbyist as a job,” Byars said.
According to his arrest affidavit, Byars is required to register within five business days any change in employment. Beginning March 6, Byars lobbied at the Iowa State Capitol on behalf of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, Iowa Safe Kids and Judicial Retirement System, the affidavit states.
He also had active declarations on one House file and several Senate bills, the affidavit states. One of the Senate bills proposes changes to the Sex Offender Registry.
His name was removed from the state’s lobbying records last week.
House Chief Clerk Carmine Boal, who supervises the list of lobbyists registered at the House, said Byars was lobbying as an individual and claiming to represent the three organizations. She said the organizations never hired Byars and didn’t know his name was attached with theirs on any legislation.
“This is very unusual,” Boal said. “We have not had someone come in and claim to be part of an organization, lobby for an organization and the organization had no idea. I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
She said anyone who wants to lobby the state is required to register. Most lobbyists are hired or work on contract with various organizations. Citizens can lobby the state on any pending legislation, but they also must register, she added.
“He just didn’t know how it worked,” Boal said.
Byars said that although he registered as a lobbyist, he included the three organizations on his form because he had an “interest” in them. He insisted he’s never had a “binding contract” with the organizations and has never tried to pass himself off as their representative.
“He’s not lobbying for us,” Jake Fredrickson, spokesman for the state treasurer’s office, which oversees the Judicial Retirement System, said.
“He’s a confused gentleman,” Fredrickson said. “He thought he was registering for something he was interested in. It’s more a case of confusion than actual malice.”
A message left Tuesday at Iowa Network of Christian Home Educators wasn’t returned. An Iowa Safe Kids spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment.
Scott County Sheriff’s Detective Peter Bawden, who supervises the county’s 322 registered sex offenders, said that although sex offenders aren’t barred from being lobbyists, they have to register what they’re doing whether they’re getting paid for it or not. Even volunteer activities must be reported as changes in employment status, Bawden added.
“As soon as he started working as a lobbyist, that’s what got him in trouble,” Bawden said. “The charge definitely does fit.”
Bawden said he was alerted by someone in Des Moines who was aware Byars is a sex offender.
A first offense failure to register is an aggravated misdemeanor. Byars was arrested Friday and spent 45 minutes in the Scott County Jail.
His attorney, Cathy Cartee of Davenport, said she’s fighting the charge.
“He’s not required to register as a lobbyist, not unless it’s his job,” Cartee said. “He wasn’t getting paid.”
Byars was put on the Sex Offender Registry for life for something he called a “youthful mistake.” Byars said he was an 18-year-old senior at Central High School when he had a consensual sexual encounter with a 13-year-old freshman at another school. He added that at the time he thought the girl was 16.
“They teach you how to put on a condom,” he said. “They don’t teach you to check the girl’s ID.” ..Source.. by Brian Wellner
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