Upper Arlington News

City Council delays decision on sex offender laws in UA


Upper Arlington City Council will hold off action until next month on a proposal to eliminate a portion of city law that prohibits convicted sex offenders from working within 1,000 feet of specified areas where children typically congregate.

Council members said Monday, June 10, they want more information about proposed changes to the city's "public morality" laws before deciding if they'll remove a restriction prohibiting convicted sex offenders from working within 1,000 feet of any school, preschool, daycare facility, public park or swimming pool, library or playground.

Council is considering the change after the Upper Arlington City Attorney's Office recommended eliminating the employment prohibition over concerns that recent Ohio Supreme Court rulings indicate the restriction is "punitive."

Officials in the office also have said UA's law could compromise the city's ability to prosecute or convict local sex offenses.

"What we're trying to do is strengthen our position," Councilman John Adams said.

In 2008, council passed an ordinance requiring all convicted sex offenders living or working in the city to register with law enforcement and broadened the law to include the restrictions on where convicted sex offenders can work.

At the time, Upper Arlington was said to be the first city to impose an employment prohibition. City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer said last week Upper Arlington remains the only community in central Ohio to have such a restriction.

However, Hummer's office has proposed eliminating the employment prohibition over concerns that courts could rule the local punishments go beyond state sex offender laws and can be deemed unconstitutional.

A staff report provided to council June 3 by Hummer and Assistant City Law Director Thad Boggs stated, "The city's current registration, residency and notification provisions for sexually oriented and child-victim-oriented offenders are, in some respects, stricter than the requirements imposed by state law. From the beginning, this has posed challenges for (the Upper Arlington Police Division), which cannot rely on the county's records because of the ordinance's broader reach.

"Since 2011, judicial decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court, evaluating the state's requirements, have also cast doubt on the city's ability to apply its requirements without inviting constitutional challenge."

On Monday, June 10, Hummer said the new proposal before council wouldn't eliminate local registration requirements for sex offenders who live or work in the city.

It would, however, eliminate the prohibition against working within 1,000 feet of schools, preschools, daycare facilities, public parks and swimming pools, libraries or playgrounds.

Currently, the employment prohibition covers about two-thirds of the city.

"There still will be a requirement for purposes of registration," Hummer said. "But the prohibition regarding your ability to work within 1,000 feet is being removed."

Various council members said they support local laws that aid the prosecution of sex offenders and the enforcement of their punishment, but they weren't ready to remove the employment prohibition.

"I'm gravely concerned about overturning the (work) restriction," Councilman Erik Yassenoff said.

Council Vice President Frank Ciotola also said he has concerns about scaling back the city's sex offender ordinance. He noted the new provisions were added in 2008 to ensure the ordinance would be "aggressive."

"I'm not totally convinced yet we need to change this legislation," Ciotola said. "Or if we are going to change it, how."