September 5, 2015

Is Springfield's sex offender ordinance in jeopardy? City Council to discuss issue

See also: Sex offender ruling has Fall River officials rethinking child safety zone ordinance
9-5-15 Massachusetts:

SPRINGFIELD – The City Council has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday to discuss if the city's ordinance that restricts where registered sex offenders can live is now in jeopardy by a Supreme Judicial Court ruling overturning a similar law in Lynn.

The council will be meeting with a representative of the Law Department to discuss the recent court ruling, and the impact it has on Springfield's sex offender ordinance which was approved eight years ago. The meeting is at noon Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall.

"We have an ordinance that is likely impacted by the ruling," Council President Michael Fenton said. "The purpose of the meeting is to evaluate what action if any will be required to alter our municipal ordinance."

Fenton called the meeting, as requested by Councilor Bud L. Williams.

Williams said the ruling creates "serious concerns" as the Springfield ordinance, designed for the protection of children, is aimed at keeping sex offenders from living near places such as schools.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Lynn had no legal authority to adopt its 2011 ordinance because it is inconsistent with state laws governing the oversight of sex offenders. Lynn's law prohibited Level Two and Level Three sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of parks or public, private or church schools. The levels are state designations reflecting those with a moderate chance of reoffending and those most likely to reoffend, respectively.

In Springfield, a registered offender "is prohibited from establishing a permanent residence or temporary residence within 500 feet of any school" with some exemptions.

The Springfield ordinance also created "child safety zones" that prohibited sex offenders from entering a school unless specifically authorized, and also prohibiting an offender from entering a park or other recreational facility when children are present, among other provisions.

Fenton said he will ask the Law Department for guidance, and believes there could be a number of future outcomes.

"If it has invalidated our ordinance, then we will consider appealing it," Fenton said. "If it has invalidated some but not all of ordinance, then we will amend it accordingly. If it requires us to reconsider the way the ordinance is written to preserve its spirit, we will rewrite it to be reconciled with the court decision."

The council meeting is not a regular meeting, but listed as a "Committee of the Whole" meeting, for discussion of the one item on the agenda.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno has also raised concerns about the court ruling. ..Source.. by Peter Goonan

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