Draft on sex offender ban is in the works

COSTA MESA — The city attorney’s office is drafting a proposed ordinance that would ban registered sex offenders from public parks.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been visiting cities around the county in recent weeks to ask various city councils to adopt ordinances modeled on an O.C. law that bars sex offenders from parks, unless they have special written permission from the Sheriff’s Department.

The D.A.'s office asked Costa Mesa to draft a similar ordinance, said city spokesman Bill Lobdell.

At its May 3 session, the City Council discussed drafting such a measure, according a staff report. Councilwoman Wendy Leece and Councilman Steve Mensinger requested that staff have time to research writing a law.

The county law prohibits sex offenders from parks, beaches and harbors without the written permission from the sheriff’s department. Violators face up to six months jail time or a $500 fine.

So far, Westminster and Irvine have adopted such ordinances.

Placentia, La Palma, Rancho Santa Margarita and Buena Park are among other cities working on passing similar bans against sex offenders, said Susan Schroeder said, the D.A.'s chief of staff.

Westminster adopted its ordinance on May 27. On Tuesday, Irvine followed suit with an ordinance that bars all registered sex offenders from entering county parks and related recreational areas.

However, an Irvine staff report noted before the City Council voted to pass the ordinance, that Orange County was entering unchartered territory, and the legal challenges that individual cities may face were unclear.

“There is no clear and definitive judicial resolution in California of the legal issues that may be associated with locally-imposed restrictions on the ability of registered sex offenders to enter and remain in parks and recreational areas,” the staff report said.

“The City Attorney’s office [of Irvine] believes that fair arguments can be made in support of such measures, but obviously no assurance can be provided at this time that such arguments will be adopted by the courts.”