The Lake Forest City Council has voted to repeal an ordinance banning registered sex offenders from parks, saying the city can’t afford the potential legal liability of the controversial law, according to the L.A. Times.
In doing so, Lake Forest becomes the first Orange County city to reject the law, which Orange County prosecutors have lobbied local governments to adopt. The repeal requires a second vote by the council, which is scheduled for Dec. 18.
About half of Orange County’s 34 cities have adopted the law, which bars registered sex offenders from parks and beaches. And of those cities, nearly half are being sued.
The law’s legality became murky last month after a panel of Superior Court judges overturned the conviction of a registered sex offender who was sentenced to 100 days in jail for attending a 2011 Cinco de Mayo celebration in Orange County’s Mile Square Park.
The judges also asked the state Court of Appeal to review the case and the law’s legality, pointing out that restrictions on sex offenders are made by the state Legislature.
"Such a patchwork of local ordinances poses tremendous risk to the offender who may not be aware of each regulation in each city, or indeed even know the precise location of city borders," the judicial panel ruled.
The appeals court has until Dec. 15 to decide whether to take up the case.
The Orange County district attorney has pushed cities the adopt the law, even as Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has told deputies to stop enforcing it. The Sheriff’s Department oversees law enforcement in much of South Orange County, including Lake Forest.
City Council members asked Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas whether his agency would indemnify the city for damages from lawsuits challenging the ban’s constitutionality. One such suit against Lake Forest and three other Orange County cities is pending in federal court.
Rackauckas told council members Tuesday they shouldn’t buckle under such threats from sex offenders. He added the request for indemnification was “a grandstand play.”
“Mayor, you know very well … that the district attorney does not indemnify cities in carrying out the law,” Rackauckas said, according to an Orange County Register report. “That is merely a grandstand question.”
This story was reported by Times Staff Writer Mike Anton.