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City Councilors Bang Heads on Controversial Sex Offender Ordinance

An attempt to vote a proposed ordinance out of committee was shot down.

An Attleboro City Council Committee meeting on Tuesday became a heated debate between two councilors who did not see eye-to-eye on a

City Councilor Cherie Felos, who as chairwoman was leading the Committee on Ordinances, Elections and Legislative Matters, was questioned by other members for her motion to call for a public hearing on a proposed ordinance banning Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from entering any child safety zone. 

A child safety zone includes a park, playground, recreation center, library, school, day care center, video arcade, swimming pool or wading pool, gymnasium, sports field, or sports facility, including the parking area and grounds appurtenant to any of the facilities. The zone also includes school or camp bus stops, which are owned or controlled by any department, agency or authority of the city of Attleboro, including but not limited to the Attleboro School Department, or leased by the city of Attleboro to another person. 

At the center of the debate was a change in the proposed ordinance, which removed Level 2 offenders from the language. Council Duff White said the proposed ordinance "was a good discussion that was abruptly cut off," during a previous meeting.

"As you know I am adamantly opposed to this moving forward without Level 2 included," White told Felos. "There is further discussion that needs to take place on this ordinance before it comes out."

Felos, however, argued that individuals have been labeled as Level 2 offenders for minor crimes including public urination and consensual sex between two young individuals. 

"After Officer Boisse and Acting Chief Heagney were here, I did go up and checked with them and urinating in public…it is a citation, but for someone pulling over on 95 or side of county street it is not a Level 2 offense," White said. In the same breath, White said urinating in public near a school or a park where there are children would make it a Level 2 offense. 

"Let's say you get plastered with your buddies and urinate on the side of the road," Felos said after the meeting. "If you are near a school yard that makes a difference if you are (labeled) a sexual offender or just ticketed.  

"A young man sleeps with a 16-year-old and is later prosecuted as a Level 2 offender — he is not a predator," Felos added. "The devil is in the details."

Eliminating Level 2 will not change the legality of the ordinance, according to Felos. In fact, it will increase the potential for a solid case.

"Adding another exception makes it less restrictive," she said. "It certainly wouldn’t change the legality and would make it easier to defend it."

The disagreement in policy pushed the two councilors to argue. Felos told White he was rude and unprofessional. When White asked if he could continue he was shot down by Felos who said he was done. White then replied with "I'm writing a Letter to the Editor."

Council President Frank Cook was concerned with voting on a motion to schedule a public hearing because the final draft of the ordinance was verbally OKed by the city solicitor in a conversation with Felos, but was not put in writing.   

Cook cited a situation where because the committee did not do its due diligence with an ordinance the council had to call for a public hearing not one, two, but three times.

"We violated the city charter and state law," Cook said.

The motion was withdrawn.

Laura Dolan March 23, 2011 at 12:53 PM
There has to be more details on what it takes to become "labeled" a level 2 sex offender. theres no way you can tell me if you pull over on 95 to pee you have to register as a sex offender. I find that ridiculous.
Patricia Resende March 23, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Thank you for commenting. You are correct, Laura. The details are not that clear cut, according to the councilors. As both councilors said it can sometimes mean the difference between urinating on the side of road in an remote place vs. in a park or near a school. This will be a very controversial debate, according to the councilors. We will continue to post information about this topic and will post dates of future public hearings on the matter.
DAN DEVINE March 24, 2011 at 11:16 AM
I agree with Councilor Felos, Councilor Duff White is RUDE & UNPROFESSIONAL !
Laura M. March 24, 2011 at 11:43 AM
The Sex Offender Registry Board determines what level an offender is by the risk of reoffense. Level 1 are not considered to be a reasonable risk. Level 2 offenders have a "moderate risk of reoffense" and level 3 offenders have a "high risk of reoffense" and "degree of dangerousness" is substantial. Since the ordinance is only considering those who pose a "risk" the level 1 offenders are not included in this proposal. Level 2 and 3 offenders are a risk of repeating! These are dangerous people that I do not want anywhere near my family. If these sex offenders pose a public safety risk they should be prevented from being anywhere near bus stops, parks, swimming pools etc. You definitely do not want someone deemed a "moderate risk" swimming in a pool with your daughter.
RANDERS March 24, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Keep up the good work Ms. Felos! Mr. White needs to show some respect. If he doesn't get his own way he just kicks his feet until someone notices, no different than a small child if you ask me. Some of these public officials and figureheads need to stop behaving badly and realize that they have been hired or elected, whichever the case may be, to serve this community. As a parent I too am concerned about these level 2 offenders but I would hate to see this get out of control. Wouldn't it be a shame if a 17 year old boy was cited for urinating in public behind the bleachers of a sporting event and now he is not allowed at the city pool and can no longer pick up his sibling at the bus stop. We have to be careful how this gets put into place. Continue the great job your doing Ms. Felos! And Mr. White, if you're going to threaten Ms. Felos by going to the editor of the local paper, grow up!
Rook March 24, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Laura M., I personally am not familiar with the sex offender laws however I feel your above explanation can not be the only way sex offender levels are determined. Life is just not this cut and dry. I think the legal system would be doing the public a disservice to just slap a permanent label on someone based on an opinion of whether they would reoffense or not and to what capacity. I’m assuming there are more factors included in this determination.
Jerry Chase April 22, 2011 at 03:31 PM
The most significant part of this report by Patricia Resende is toward the end, where Frank Cook is "concerned . . . . verbally OK'd by the city solicitor in a conversation with Ordinance chair Cherie Felos". This is radically different from Cook's attempted stifling of the previous Ordinance Committee chair, only three years ago. The Municipal Council Rules of Procedure provide for two (2) councilors to have direct access to the City's attorney: the president and the chair of the ordinance committee. But, apparently, it depends on WHO that chairperson is, according to Frank Cook. Pure hypocrisy. The truth is that Frank Cook has no regard for rules. Does anyone remember that D A Sam Sutter found Cook guilt of an Open Meeting Law VIOLATION in 2008, by his illegally-convening an executive session of the Council in plain disregard for the written requirements? Yet Cook suffered no sanction(s) at all. I suppose that's one of the benefits of being the mayor's lackey. It's time for new Council leadership, here in 2011.

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