October 15, 2015

Westfield City Council considers repeal of sex offender ordinance

10-15-15 Massachusetts:

WESTFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Westfield is another city considering the repeal of an ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live.

Just a few weeks ago, Springfield was another city that had to deal with this issue. City officials in Westfield had a similar discussion Tuesday night.

An ordinance that stopped sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds will soon be overturned as the law was found to be unconstitutional.

"I think that our constituents looked for us to protect them and that this is one way we tried to do that. So, if the Supreme Court has seen in their infinite wisdom that this is no longer in our ability to do then we need to do what the Supreme Court says,” said Westfield City Councilor Ralph Figy.

The ordinance committee has made a recommendation to city councilors to repeal its ordinance, but the decision, was not coming easily for some.

"I’m a parent so it’s unfortunate that we had to go this route. But, unfortunately we don't have much of a choice. From a Constitutional stand-point, given the decision for the community of

Lynn,” said City Councilor at Large Matthew VanHeynigen.

The issue stems from a case in Lynn where the State Supreme Court overturned a law in the

City, saying it was inconsistent with state laws that govern the oversight of sex offenders.

Westfield is one of 40 communities that is directly impacted.

"This doesn't change the fact that level-3 sex offenders still have to register in Westfield. So, we will know where they are. But, this will unfortunately leave a void for a little while,” said, Christopher Keefe, Ward 1 City Councilor. "This is definitely not a vote that reflects the will of the city council. But, rather the responsibility of the council and sometimes we have to do things that we don't like."

VanHeynigen says like many other communities, they're at a standstill.

"Down the road we'll look to, hoping for other decisions that may perhaps reverse this. But, in the meantime this is what we have to do."

The city council is expected to take an official vote on the repeal Thursday night. ..Source.. by Chris Rueli and Shakala Alvaranga

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