The City Council of Lake Forest voted 3 to 2 to finally approve the repeal of the sex offender ordinance they adopted unanimously about a year ago. The Council preliminarily approved repeal of the ordinance at its meeting on December 4.
“California RSOL thanks the Mayor and the City Council of Lake Forest for repealing a law that violated the civil rights of more than 100,000 law abiding citizens in the state of California and that did not increase public safety,” stated Janice Bellucci, President, California Reform Sex Offender Laws. “They are to be commended for their courage in correcting a mistake made a year ago when the ordinance was adopted.”
At the previous City Council meeting, 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. At least one additional court challenge from two city residents had been promised if the city did not repeal its ordinance.
Before calling for a vote on December 4 to initially approve repeal of the ordinance, Mayor McCullough asked the District Attorney (DA) to indemnify the city for all costs associated with that and other potential lawsuits related to the ordinance. 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 law abiding residents in this state,” stated Bellucci.
California RSOL sent letters to the 15 remaining cities on December 14 informing them of Lake Forest’s preliminary 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.