Friday, December 25, 2009

IA - Dyersville revisits sex offender ordinance

Original Article

12/25/2009

By MICHAEL SCHMIDT

City attorney is asked to give an opinion on whether the stringent city rule is in violation of state law.

DYERSVILLE - The Dyersville City Council has asked its attorney to form an opinion on the city's stringent sex offender ordinance.

Dyersville City Attorney Marc Casey will deliver an opinion on the city's ordinance passed in 2005, which bans all sex offenders from residing within city limits. Casey's opinion will be released at the Council's next meeting on Jan. 4.

Mayor Jim Heavens asked for the ordinance to be placed on this past Monday's council agenda, fulfilling a promise made to Councilwoman Molly Evers during her successful re-election bid in November.

Evers has been an opponent of the city's ordinance since its passage.

"I told her if she was re-elected, I would bring (the ordinance) up for discussion as soon as possible," Heavens said. "I gave her a month to do her homework on it."

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (Contact) signed a new sex offender law in May that loosens residency restrictions and adds a 300-foot "no loiter" zone around places where children gather.

The law retains the 2,000-foot residency ban around schools, libraries and day care centers, but only for the most serious offenders against children.

In Section 27 of the code, the law states that "any motion, resolution or ordinance adopted by a political subdivision of the state is void and unenforceable."

Evers read the code's section aloud at Monday's council meeting. She also told the Council about conversations she's had with several state and local officials -- including Dubuque County Sheriff Ken Runde and Delaware County Sheriff John LeClere -- regarding the ordinance.

"The people I have talked to said the city is in conflict with Iowa Code," Evers said. "(Council members) just took the oath of office, and we swore that we would uphold the Iowa Constitution and the U.S. Constitution."

"That's where my stand is. I am hoping for some common sense."

Heavens, a proponent of the city's ordinance, used comments made by Bob Brammer of the Iowa Attorney's General's Office to support his argument.

Brammer, a spokesman for the office, told the TH in October that the law, as written, does not require city ordinances to be repealed.

"Do we need to repeal this thing to comply with law changes?" Heavens asked. "Nobody has ever contacted us that we have to. Nobody has ever said anything like that."

"Since we have had this law in the books, we have not had anybody challenge us. If anybody wanted to challenge the law, somebody would have to be harmed by it."

Councilman Dan Willenborg is in favor of keeping the ordinance on the books, unless the state intervenes.

"The ordinance is a good ordinance," Willenborg said.

"I don't see the need to repeal it unless we are violating state law."