Expressing reluctance, the Lompoc City Council on Tuesday agreed to revise its laws on where registered sex offenders can visit and suspend enforcing limits on where they can live.
The changes stem from a lawsuit filed by Frank Lindsay, a Grover Beach resident who appears on the Megan’s Law registry. His federal lawsuit against Lompoc is among more than 30 filed by the nonprofit California Reform Sex Offender Laws.
The lawsuit fought what Santa Maria Valley-based attorney Janice Bellucci called “presence” restrictions saying registered sex offenders can’t loiter within 300 feet of any child safety zones. Those include a child care center, public or private school, park, public library, business with a playground, locations that hold classes or activities for children and any school bus stop.
Lompoc adopted the more stringent rules in 2012 based upon state legislation and following the 75 other communities that also did so.
“We did that in good faith believing we were within the law,” Mayor John Linn said.
Councilman Bob Lingl said he expected a large turnout Tuesday opposing the council “giving in” to the lawsuit.
“We really, here again in my opinion, we had no decision,” Lingl said. “In my opinion, we have no option here, other than to pay the hostages.”
The council also agreed to pay $2,500 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiff to settle the case.
An appellate court decision involving lawsuits against other agencies prompted City Attorney Joe Pannone to recommend the council remove the rules regarding where registered sex offenders can visit.
“If the city were to pursue that litigation and try to defend it, it’s going to be a loser for the city,“ Pannone said.
Losing a lawsuit would mean the city would have to pay the plaintiff’s potentially costly legal fees, Pannone said in explaining why the council should adopt the settlement.
The council also authorized police to temporarily stop enforcing limits on where registered sex offenders can live because the California Supreme Court is expected to rule in a “Jessica’s Law” case involving residency restrictions.
The mayor noted the council had discussed the settlement in closed session as allowed by state law.
Ann McCarty, associate director of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center, said the stringent restrictions made it more difficult to track registered sex offenders because it pushed them to outlying areas.
“We want to know where the registered sex offenders are,” McCarty said. “We want to know where they are so that we can talk to our children, so that we can talk to our families about where these individuals are.”
Lompoc resident Keith Kie urged the council to adopt the changes, adding he spoke out as an adult child of a registered sex offender.
“The truth is registered sex offenders have families of their own and it’s those family members that have to deal with the serious and often severe blowback by fellow citizens,” Kie said, adding he received death threats and public ridicule because of his father’s status.