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P.G. council turns down ordinance to limit sex offenders

By KELLY NIX

Published: February 25, 2011

THE BACKERS of a rejected ordinance that would have prevented convicted sex offenders in Pacific Grove from holding certain jobs — including those that require them to check identification or work with unaccompanied children — are planning to introduce a revamped version of the law to the city council.

On Feb. 16, the Pacific Grove City Council voted 5-2 to strike down a proposed ordinance that would have prevented sex offenders from working in jobs where children are present and where they could check identification.

The ordinance — written by councilman Dan Miller and Mayor Carmelita Garcia — would have also made it a crime for employers to hire sex offenders for those types of jobs.

Five of seven council members, though, said the ordinance had too many bugs, including that it placed too much burden on employers and was not easily enforceable.

“I see that we want to protect individuals ... it’s our obligation,” councilman Ken Cuneo said at the meeting. “I don’t know if by adding another layer of law it will make anybody safer in doing so.”

However, Miller told The Pine Cone this week that he and Garcia, both of whom voted for the ordinance last week, haven’t given up on it yet.

“In talking with the mayor,” Miller told The Pine Cone Wednesday, “we will be putting a revised ordinance on the agenda very soon.”

Though there are laws that apply to convicted sex offenders, such as preventing those released from prison from living within 2,000 feet of parks and schools, there are no broad laws prohibiting them from being employed in specific jobs in municipalities.

“It’s a shame it’s left up to communities to enact something like this,” said councilman Rudy Fischer

The law could have applied to sex offenders who are home service workers, business owners and those who use a motor vehicle to sell “frozen desserts,” like an ice cream man.

“This is an added protection, if enacted,” city attorney David Laredo told the council. “I would assert that if there is one victim protected by this measure, that would be enough.”

But the council seemed to have more questions than there were answers.

Councilman Alan Cohen and other councilmen said the law would have placed too much responsibility on employers.

“Why is the employer the one who has to be the enforcer of this particular law?” he said. “Why is he the gatekeeper?”

And councilman Bill Kampe questioned how an employer would determine if the person being hired is a convicted sex offender.

Kampe also said the ordinance was far-reaching and could apply to many segments of small businesses and their employees. “I think we have to recognize how pervasive the impact could be,” he said.

Though the ordinance was not drawn up to be punitive, Cohen didn’t see it that way.

Sex offenders “already paid to the state for a crime they had done at the time, and now we are going another step,” he said. “I see that as some sort of a punishment.”

Cuneo had similar thoughts.

“If somebody has paid for their crime ... do we then kick them when they are down again?” he said. “I have some reservations with that.”

Miller told the council why he and Garcia drew up the ordinance, which he said would help officials “protect people who can’t protect themselves.”

“The reason this came up is for years there was somebody in town,” Miller explained, “who I knew factually would ask for identification for purchase of alcohol ... and show up at their houses after taking their addresses from their driver’s license.”

Miller didn’t say how the new ordinance would differ from the first one, nor did he say when the revised ordinance would appear on a city council agenda.