June 22, 2014

City repeals ordinance in response to lawsuit by sex offender

6-22-2014 California:

Court has ruled ordinances like Taft's are unconstitutional, so Taft City Council votes 4-0 to remove restrictions on where sex offenders can live

The City of Taft has, for all intents and purposes, settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of a registered sex offender Tuesday night when it repealed a seven-year-old ordinance regulating where convicted sex offenders could live and visit.

The city was sued in late May by Frank Lindsay, a Grover City man convicted in 1979 of committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14.

Taft wasn't the first city sued, and current court rulings have held that ordinances likes the city's are unconstitutional.

Fourteen other California cities with similar ordinances have been sued as well.

A staff report from City Human Resources/Assistant City Manager Director Lon Boyer told the council it didn't have much of a choice.

“In January of this year, the State of California Appellate Court published the opinion of People v. Nguyen (the "Nguyen Decision") in which the court determined that similar ordinances adopted by other Cities were unenforceable because of State law (Proposition 83) which regulates the daily life of sex offenders, Boyer wrote.

Ordinances like Taft's ordinance 737-7, passed by the council in 2007, prohibits any registered sex offender from living within 2,000 feet of “any children's facility or child care center...or loitering within any children's facility of child care center in the city,” were ruled to be unconstitutional and the court held that Proposition 83 supersedes those ordinances.

The California Supreme Court has denied review of the Nguyen Decision which made it final and applicable throughout the State of California.

Proposition 83, also known as “Jessica's Law” was an initiative approved by voters in 2006.

The council met in closed session with City Attorney Jason Epperson for about 10 minutes at the start of Tuesday's council meeting.

Later, the council voted 3-0 (Mayor Paul Linder and councilman Randy Miller were absent) to repeal the city ordinance.

The acton on the ordinance was included in the consent agenda for the meeting, but it was pulled at the request of Councilman Dave Noerr.

He eventually voted to repeal the city's ordinance, but made it clear that he wasn't too happy about it.

“We passed it because we felt state law did not go far enough to protect our children,” he said.

He said relying only on the state law to keep sex offenders away from children was “unsettling.” ..Continued.. by Doug Keeler

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