Thursday, May 04, 2006

...but Keansburg doesn't

Interesting story out of Keansburg (NJ?), Pecora changes position on sex offenders. Seems the town had to amend its zoning laws to avoid a lawsuit:

Councilman Patrick Pecora changed his position on sex offenders when he voted against an amendment allowing Tier I offenders to live within 1,000 feet of schools.

The borough's original ordinance prevented all registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and parks. The amended ordinance exempts Tier I offenders, or those who are least likely to repeat their offenses.

Pecora originally voted in favor of the ordinance at a special meeting of the Borough Council on April 5. However, he voted against the ordinance's relaxation at the council's April 26 regular meeting.

“I thought about it more and I think we should fight the fight,” Pecora said of his flip-flopped vote. “We should do what we can to protect the children of this community.” Pecora later added that he specifically voted to introduce the ordinance so that the council could have more time to consider it.


The amendment to ease the residency limitations was ultimately passed in a vote of 3-2, with Mayor Lisa Strydio, Deputy Mayor Drew Murray and Councilman Jimmy Cocuzza voting to in favor of the amendment, and Hoff and Pecora voting against.

According to Borough Attorney Michael Hanus the amendment was proposed to prevent litigation from an unnamed Tier I sex offender who was affected by the ordinance. Because the amendment was passed it nullifies the lawsuit.

“There is no insurance to cover the court cases dealing with the constitutionality of a municipal ordinance,” Hanus said. “Dollar one would have come out of the taxpayers' pockets.”

Hanus added the legal battle could possibly go all the way to the Supreme Court, and could last for at least six years. “If it turned out that this was unconstitutional, the municipality would have to foot the bill for the costs of going to court for an unconstitutional ordinance.


Cocuzza said he voted for the amendment because the borough's legal team advised the council that a case involving a Tier I offender could not be won.

"Our lawyers told us that they would get rich off of Keansburg if the borough decided to fight this fight. It's a court case that our lawyers said the town can't win. They advised Keansburg not to pay them to litigate the case when our town has elderly people on fixed incomes who are loosing their houses because of taxes," Cocuzza said.

But just in case you thought all was sweetness and light in Keansburg, the article also notes:

The sex offender issue has turned into a political battle. Former Deputy Mayor Mike Coppola has posted a sign outside his Forest Avenue home declaring that Cocuzza supports pedophilia.

I smell a libel and defamation suit here. Cocuzza would seem to have a slam-dunk case.

What a town is Keansburg. They're unsure about the constitutionality of a law they passed, they (reasonably) amend it when their counsel advises them that the town will lose not just the case but lots of money in litigation, but those who wanted to retain the original law turn around and engage in libel.

It says a lot about the emotional immaturity of some of those behind sex-offender legislation.


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