By JAIMEE LYNN FLETCHER
HUNTINGTON BEACH – City Council members will discuss changing an ordinance to allow some exceptions to a ban on sex offenders in city parks.
The council will meet on Tuesday to discuss allowing Police Chief Kenneth Small to make exemptions to the rule based on his discretion, according to city reports.
- Come on, this is just sugar-coating to make it sound less punitive. We are willing to bet if this passes, this officer will still not allow anyone into the parks.
The changes come on the heels of a lawsuit filed in October, naming Huntington Beach and other Orange County cities, which says that the ordinances that ban sex offenders from parks and other public areas are unconstitutional.
Lake Forest, Costa Mesa and Seal Beach were named in the suit along with Huntington Beach. In December, Lake Forest repealed its ordinance.
As proposed, the new rule says Small can write letters of exemption that would allow certain sex offenders into parks.
The council may also consider an exemption for sex offenders who are parents or guardians or those who work in banned areas but held their jobs before the city's law was passed.
When Huntington Beach officials first approved the ordinance they received some resistance from council members who said the rule was too broad and would unfairly punish those who were not a danger to the community.
Council members who opposed the ordinance, including Mayor Connie Boardman and Councilman Joe Shaw, were careful not to downplay the seriousness of sexual offenses, but both Boardman and Shaw said there are a wide variety of crimes that can brand someone as a sex offender.
Among the examples discussed: A 19-year-old man with a 16-year-old girlfriend could be slapped with the label, as could someone who urinated in public.
"Parents who had offenses decades ago, who are now raising children, (could be) prohibited from going to the park," Boardman said at a previous meeting. "I'm concerned about the constitutionality of this as well."
The council majority in November 2011 approved the ordinance, with most members saying there should not be exceptions.
"I don't want to be sitting up here and say that I had the ability and didn't use it and some child was abused," said Councilman Joe Carchio when the ordinance was first approved. "If it were up to me and I could get rid of them all, I would."
- So you'd be a dictator like Hitler as he exterminated many Jews?
The council meets at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall, 2000 Main St.