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Sex offender housing restrictions: where the law, common sense and politics collide

It seemed simple enough.

A law on the city of San Diego’s books to restrict where registered sex offenders can live has provisions deemed unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court.

City Attorney Mara Elliott wanted the City Council to repeal the ordinance because San Diego could still be sued with it in place, even though the law hasn’t been enforced for years.

But on Aug. 1, a majority of council members balked. It seems nothing is actually simple in politics when it comes to doing anything that could be distorted as going easy on sex offenders, no matter the logic or law.

By a 5-4 vote, council members earlier this month rejected the repeal and days later the city was sued, according to the Union-Tribune’s Karen Kucher.

So, unless something changes, the city will spend money going to court for a dead-letter law that doesn’t do anything to protect children and others from sexual predators.

Elliott suggested that winning such a case is beyond unlikely. She further told the council that San Diego police do things other things to protect children from sexual abuse.

“She said the police department was there to explain further,” wrote Andrew Bowen of KPBS, “but no council member invited the police department’s representative to speak.”

Some members made comments about the need to protect children, but no one suggested that the city start trying to enforce the law.

The ordinance sought to prohibit paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, playground, park, library, amusement center, arcade or day care facility.

The Supreme Court had ruled on a similar state law affecting San Diego County areas, concluding that such residency restrictions are unconstitutional because they are unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive. Fewer than 3 percent of the units in San Diego County potentially would be available to registered sex offenders.

The court had other concerns.

“Blanket enforcement of the residency restrictions against these parolees has severely restricted their ability to find housing in compliance with the statute, greatly increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services,” the court wrote in its affirmation of two lower court rulings.

Council members David Alvarez, Chris Cate, Georgette Gomez, Chris Ward and Lori Zapf opposed the repeal. Barbara Bry, Myrtle Cole, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman sided with the city attorney.

Politics is such these days that you can hardly blame people for not wanting to open themselves up to unfair attacks. But then, others did. That’s often the price of doing the people’s business.

SANDAG’s Gallegos: Hana who?

Gary Gallegos made big news last week when he said he was stepping down at the end of the year as executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments.

He broke the news to The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board, and said a whole lot more.

For one thing, he said he was unaware that an unsearchable server used to hide emails from public records requests existed. The server, called “Hana Tools,” was created by SANDAG staff specifically to hide emails from searches for public records requests, according to an investigative report into the agency’s overstating — by billions of dollars — revenue estimates for a proposed transportation tax rejected by voters last fall.

Some emails related to the botched revenue estimates for Measure A were put in the offline folder and deleted.

The report said Kurt Kroninger, SANDAG’s former director of technical services, admitted creating the folder to obfuscate communications and that Gallegos and at least one other top agency official approved of the move. That contradicts what Gallegos told the Union-Tribune.

Gallegos didn’t dispute that emails were deleted, but denied there was anything nefarious about it.

Not long before the November election, amid media pressure for the agency to produce internal communications, the report said agency officials instructed workers to delete emails associated with the inquiry. But investigators didn’t say what was in those emails.

Gallegos told the Union-Tribune that staff members were given a routine refresher on SANDAG’s record retention policy: Preliminary drafts not deleted within 60 days must be kept for at least two years.

According to the report, people at the meeting said it was implicit that employees should delete communications that would have been protected by the policy. Gallegos said no such order was given and that he couldn’t speak to how people interpreted what was said.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts, chair of the SANDAG board and a Gallegos supporter, said a forensic review would be conducted to recover the deleted emails to find out what they said.

It’s uncertain whether that project will be completed before Gallegos rides off into the sunset, eventually to become the cowboy he said he wants to be at his family’s Colorado ranch.

Tweet of the Week

Goes to Matthew T. Hall (@SDuncovered), editorial and opinion director of the Union-Tribune.

“SANDAG tells me departing executive director Gary Gallegos’ monthly pension benefit is $22k. So he’ll get $264,000 a year for life. He’s 57.”


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