The City Council of Lake Forest voted 4 to 0 to preliminarily approve the repeal of the sex offender ordinance they adopted unanimously a year ago. Final approval of the appeal is expected at the Council’s next meeting on December 18.
“The Mayor and City Council of Lake Forest are to be commended for their courage in correcting a mistake they made one year ago,” stated Janice Bellucci, President, California Reform Sex Offender Laws. “Part of that mistake was reliance upon representations made by the Orange County District Attorney (DA) that the county ordinance, which contained similar language, did not preempt state law or violate the federal constitution.”
Mayor Kathryn McCullough cited potential legal liability as the reason she favored repeal of the ordinance, which prohibits all registrants in the state from visiting the city’s parks. The city has been sued in federal district court by a registrant who is challenging the ordinance because it violates both the state and federal constitutions.
Before calling for a vote to repeal the ordinance, Mayor McCullough asked the DA to indemnify the city for all costs associated with that and other potential lawsuits related to the ordinance. In a fiery retort to that question, the DA responded, “”Mayor, you know very well … that the District Attorney does not indemnify cities in carrying out the law.”
City Attorney Scott Smith has estimated the cost of defending that lawsuit at more than $200,000. City Manager Robert Dunek, in an 11-page staff report, recommended strongly that the city repeal the ordinance for several reasons including the fact that public safety is already protected by other state, county and local safety ordinances and programs.
The City of Lake Forest is one of 16 cities in Orange County that have adopted ordinances that prohibit registrants from entering public parks, beaches and harbors. One of those cities – Santa Ana – also prohibits registrants from entering the public library.
“Lake Forest is leading the way for other cities within Orange County to correct the mistakes they, too have made, in adopting ordinances that deny the civil rights of more than 100,000 residents in this state while not increasing public safety,” stated Bellucci.
California RSOL will send letters to the 15 remaining cities informing them of Lake Forest’s decision as well as the court decision that declared the Orange County ordinance to be void. Those cities, like Lake Forest, have an opportunity to focus taxpayer resources more effectively upon the true source of most sexual assaults on children – family members, teachers, coaches and clergy – through education of parents and other responsible adults.
Media articles describing the Lake Forest City Council meeting can be found online at