Laguna Hills Adopts Law Banning Sex Offenders Like Councilman's Son-in-Law From Parks
Laguna Hills City Councilman Joel Lautenschleger, who'd previously appeared on the fence about a ban on sex offenders in local parks, joined his council colleagues in unanimously approving the second reading of such an ordinance Tuesday night.
The ban, which is modeled after the county's, goes into effect in 30 days.
The city ordinance creates a "Child Safety Zone" that prevents registered sex offenders from gathering in city parks unless they first receive permission from the sheriff's department, which patrols Laguna Hills. The law also mandates signs in individual parks informing the public about the ordinance. Violators face fines and possible jail time.
As the Weekly previous reported, Lautenschleger cited constitutional concerns and whether such an ordinance was even needed in Laguna Hills at a council meeting in September, when city staff was directed to investigate the issues further and bring back a recommendation later.
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A month later, Lautenschleger's son-in-law, Todd Robert Sousa, pleaded guilty to having an unlawful sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl and was to 16 months in state prison.
Lautenschleger told the Weekly his concerns about the ordinance had nothing to do with the Sousa case and, sure enough, the councilman joined Mayor L. Allan Songstad Jr. and council colleagues Melody Carruth, Barbara Kogerman and Randal Bressette in voting unanimously for passage of the ban on first reading Nov. 22 and again on second reading Tuesday.
Passage means Sousa, a club and high school swim coach, cannot enter parks in Laguna Hills or the city of his residence, Irvine, without the permission of law enforcement. Irvine passed a ban that applies only to sex offenders who have been convicted of preying on children.
On Dec. 6, Yorba Linda adopted a ban modeled after the county's full ban on second reading and Lake Forest approved its on first reading. Huntington Beach, La Habra, Los Alamitos and Westminster previously enacted their own ordinances that are like the county's. Other cities considering bans include Brea, Anaheim, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano and Seal Beach.
Lautenschleger is not the only person in Orange County or even out-of-state to have debated whether these ordinances will ultimately stand up to the U.S. Constitution. Supporters have minimized such legal concerns and, for now, Orange County is bully on banning pervs from parks, with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Supervisor Shawn Nelson having led the charge since the county in April enacted the ordinance they drafted for regional parks and attractions.
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