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Lake Forest Repeals Sex Offender Ban

With new City Council members dissenting, officials give final approval to reversing their year-old ban on registered sex offenders in Lake Forest parks.

Worried that a year-old ban on registered sex offenders in local parks wouldn't hold up in court, Lake Forest's City Council voted Tuesday to repeal the law.

In a 3-2 decision, the council officially undid the measure, which had been on the books since last December and prohibited registered sex offenders from entering city parks.

The law was stricter than the one it was modeled after, a county measure penned by District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and County Supervisor Shawn Nelson.

The move put the council in the unusual position of saying it was either wrong to enact the ban in the first place or unwilling to defend it. Mayor Kathryn McCullough and Councilmen Scott Voigts and Peter Herzog voted to repeal the law.

The council's two newly elected members, Dwight Robinson and Adam Nick, voted to keep it.

At the council meeting the ban, citing the financial hit the city would take defending itself against lawsuits.

About half the cities in Orange County have enacted similar laws at the request of Rackauckas. However, the county's law suffered a setback when an appeals court overturned the conviction of Hugo Godinez for entering Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley.

In that case, an Orange County appellate panel said the county ban was superseded by a less restrictive state law.

Cty Attorney Scott C. Smith said keeping Lake Forest's law would cost at least $200,000 in legal fees to defend, and that's if the city won in court. Losing could bring penalties, including paying the legal costs of the sex offenders who challenged the ban.

Jim Gardner December 19, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Hi JustUs, The City Council members take an oath to defend the U.S. and the CA Constitutions. As far as I know from their publicity, the DA did not endorse either Nick or Robinson. OC Supervisor Bates endorsed Anderson and Zechmeister, as she did Herzog in 2010.
JustUs December 19, 2012 at 10:23 PM
In a small article by Greg Woodward on 10/2/2012 at the "OC Political" blog it states that the Orange County DA did endorse Dwight Robinson. I tried to link it but the Patch rejected it for some reason. And thinking back, I recall seeing the endorsement on Robinson's personal campaign page on his endorsement list prior to the election myself. In fact, I mentioned it to several people. But when I just checked for the endorsement on his campaign page it's gone. So apparently it's been removed. Interesting. But I can't seem to find any known political connection between Mr. Nick and the DA's office. But thank you for your response.
JustUs December 19, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Btw, I want to thank Mayor McCullough, Herzog and Voights for having the good sense to trash this piece of City legal trash. Thank you for realizing the errors of your ways, admitting it publicly and doing whatever you could to try and save the City the money it would take to enter into such a futile war where all the odds are stacked against the City. You cannot turn back the hands of time and correct other misjudgments of the past. All you can do is take responsibility and apologize to your citizens for the mistakes that you've made. And after listening to Mayor McCullough last night - it seems that you've done that. All we ask is that you LEARN from your mistakes going forward and don't repeat the same errors over and over again. And God bless Mayor McCullough. I have never really been a big fan - but you impressed the heck out of me last night with your leadership and honesty. You go girl!
vahall December 20, 2012 at 01:20 AM
The first thing that needs to be said about laws like this is that they are a sham. There is no evidence. linking park restrictions to a reduction in sex crimes, and no way that park restrictions will do anything about the bulk of the sex-offender problem, which is the abuse of children by relatives and other people they know. The laws are simplistic, emotion-based formulas that cloak politicians in an aura of decisiveness. while doing nothing to tackle a ferociously difficult problem. The second thing is that they are a dangerous waste of law-enforcement time and resources. Police departments are already obliged under a welter of federal and state laws to register and monitor sex. offenders. Prosecutors and sheriffs around the country have complained that adding park enforcement to their large and growing offender-management portfolios only hampers their ability to fight crime. The final and most important point is that park bans send offenders underground. You may imagine these men fearsome and creepy, but if communities systematically banish them, denying them the chance to find housing and to lead stable lives under close supervision, they end up doing the logical thing. They congregate in unincorporated poor areas. Or they disappear. The laws your DA and his sidekick are trumpeting risk turning sex offenders into unstable, rootless individuals, harder to track and arguably more dangerous.
Robert Curtis March 24, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Odd, but with 80% of the population being for the ban I see little argument online in favor via comments. Perhaps the arguments are so weak that many opt out. Emotions are hard to defend with reason especially when they are wrong. TRUTH

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