Village attorney looks to prevent legal challenges

 

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Hoping to mitigate the chances of a lawsuit in the road ahead, Village of Waterford officials have decided to change the municipality’s year-old ordinance for registered sex offenders.

Village Attorney Marcy Hasenstab provided robust input during a month-long review, which has taken place as several municipalities – including Milwaukee, Pleasant Prairie and Waukesha – have faced legal action for ordinances attorneys have asserted equate to banishment.

Federal law prohibits municipalities from banishing an offender once he or she has served his or her time.

The Village Board on July 26 had a second, and final, reading of a revised sex offender ordinance that ends the year-old threshold of prohibiting residency within 1,500 feet of places frequented by children, including schools, day care centers and parks.

The new changes have set the threshold at 750 feet around such venues.

During this week’s final comb-through of Hasenstab’s recommended changes, the board gave final approval on a 4-1 vote. Trustee Andrew Ewert cast the dissenting vote.

In defending his position, Ewert said he believed the village’s ordinance should not have been altered. He pointed out the 1,500-foot prohibition pertained to persons convicted of severe sex offenses.

“This didn’t even pertain to the lesser offenders,” Ewert said. “I’m willing to take the chance and leave the ordinance as it is.”

But several other board members said they believed it would be prudent to heed Hasenstab’s legal advice and make the changes.

“The way I’ve read it, and understand it, Marcy seems to have gone as far as she can,” Trustee Don Houston said of safeguards.

Village President Jim Schneider said he also believed changes should be made to the ordinance, particularly after he reviewed some of the sample cases Hasenstab provided.

“I had to do a lot of thinking,” Schneider said as he deliberated over how he would vote on the matter.

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