After months of city council consideration of the issue of sex offender residency restrictions, Englewood still has such restrictions, but the council relaxed the restrictions and included an amendment allowing offenders currently living in the city to remain.
The council made the decision at the March 6 meeting when it took up the second and final reading of proposed changes to Englewood Title 9 of the city code Ordinance 34 that barred registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds and within 1,000 feet of day care facilities, recreational centers or public swimming pools. The change adopted by the council makes all the distance restrictions uniform at 1,000 feet.
When the second reading came up on the agenda, each councilmember spoke about his or her position on the proposed change to the ordinance. There was general agreement that it was an emotional issue that would be a challenge to decide. All councilmembers said they had done research and talked to residents about the issue in order to prepare for the vote.
However the comments reflected different views on how to deal with the issue. Councilmembers Rita Russell and Laurett Barrentine said the restrictions should be repealed while Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gillit and Councilmembers Amy Martinez and Steve Yates said they were in favor of the proposed changes to the ordinance. Councilmember Linda Olson said she would oppose passage of the ordinance and Mayor Joe Jefferson said he would not vote to approve the ordinance unless there was an amendment to “grandfather” sex offenders now living in the city, which would exempt those sex offenders from the residency restrictions.
Jefferson's comments triggered a discussion about a possible grandfather clause. When councilmember comments concluded, Gillit moved to adopt an amendment to the proposal to make sex offenders now living in the city exempt from the residency restrictions.
“No one wants to force anyone to move out of their homes and this law could do that,” he said.
He then said he was proposing the amendment because he felt it was the fair thing to do.
“Therefore I will propose the grandfather clause amendment,” he said. “I do want a clear understanding that any sex offender moving into Englewood after this ordinance becomes law in 30 days be notified that the city has sex offender residency restrictions that apply to them.”
Jefferson said the proposal wasn't perfect but it resolves the problem.
The vote on the amendment was 6-1 with Olson voting no. The vote on the ordinance as amended was 7-0.
Englewood resident Brian Brockhausen initially brought the issue to the council last August. He is a registered sex offender. He told the council he had completed his time in prison and returned to live with his parents and brothers but was told by police that he could be required to leave the city under the residency restrictions.
“I feel the March 6 council decision is bittersweet,” he said March 8. “It is good to know I won't have to move out of Englewood but I want to see more done. I believe the law will continue to be challenged in court until it is declared unconstitutional.”
He said he is glad the council took some action but he was looking for more closure and the repeal of the ordinance.
The city council has been dealing with the issue of the city's sex offender residency restriction for about seven months. In that time there have been frequent discussions; a number of residents have spoken to council urging repeal of the ordinance; and there has been a volume of testimony by those associated with sex offender rehabilitation that residency restrictions do nothing to protect the community or possible victims of sexual abuse.
The ordinance gives the police department the authority to require any registered sex offender to move out of any restricted area within 30 days or face arrest. Englewood is one of six Colorado communities with sexual offender residency restrictions.
Late last year attorney Alison Ruttenberg, representing plaintiffs Brockhausen, Allen Toner and Larry Cook, took the issue to district court, first seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance. That was denied and then she sought a permanent injunction which also was denied.
Plans had been to continue court action and file a lawsuit in district court.
“I believe the changes to the ordinance make the lawsuit moot and the case will be dismissed,” Ruttenberg said March 8. “However I do not have all the information about the ordinance change so I can't say that is what will happen.”