Council takes step to ban offenders from city property

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council held the first reading of an ordinance that would allow police officers to exclude people from city property after the person has violated the law.

The ordinance is similar to one that already allows the library and parks directors to exclude people from parks and the Sweet Home Public Library. The ordinance does not include sidewalks and streets. The Public Safety Committee reviewed the ordinance and referred it to the City Council for its consideration.

The council voted 3-2 to hold the first reading of the ordinance during its regular meeting on Jan. 24. Voting to hold the first reading were Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler and Dave Trask. Voting no were James Goble and Diane Gerson. Ryan Underwood was not present at the meeting.

“It’s a tool to help the Police Department deal with unruly behavior,” said City Manager Ray Towry.

“This will just be another option for the police to use in certain areas on city property, parking lot, that sort of thing where it’s come up before,” said City Attorney Robert Snyder. “We do use it in the parks. We’ve seen a few of those come through the court and through the police reports.

“This is just basically the same format as we’ve used in the parks. You still get the citation and everything, but you may get an extra piece of paper that says stay off whatever particular piece of property you were found violating the law on.”

The ordinance also empowers the code enforcement officer to exclude people from city property.

It might be used if, for example, the code enforcement officer came across garbage left in the City Hall parking lot, Snyder said, although it probably would be used most often by police officers.

“Do we need more rules at this time?” Goble asked. “To me when I read this, it seems like we’re making a rule that we’re going to use our department to micromanage certain areas. Can’t we already trespass somebody from being on the property?”

“Yes, you can,” Snyder replied. “But this ordinance is for the extra avenue of actually keeping the person, if they’re doing something out here in the parking lot, littering or whatever, and we cite them. Usually we would cite them into court. This would allow you also at the same time to write them at the same time a notice that says, you’re not allowed to be back here on the city parking lot to have litter for 30 days or 90 days.”

“We can’t do that right now?” Goble asked.

“No, it’s a public piece of property,” Snyder said.

Police Chief Jeff Lynn described a scenario where it may be used, consumption of alcohol on public property, like the city parking lot.

“It’s not a criminal offense,” Lynn said. “It’s a violation, so we can’t take them to jail. Eventually, the judge would be able to tell them not to go back, but that would be a month down the road. With this exclusion option we would be able to step in and say you can’t go back to the park until you see the judge, but then there’s also some remedies that they can go and appeal that. It just gives another option and a tool out there.”

If someone violates the exclusion order, Snyder said, it would become criminal trespass.

The council will read the ordinance for the second time during its regular meeting on Feb. 14. Following a third reading on Feb. 28, the council can vote whether to adopt the ordinance.

In other business:

n The Sweet Home City Council has set a Feb. 15 deadline for applications to fill a position left vacant after the resignation of Councilor Jeff Goodwin, who is moving to Corvallis.

The council will interview applicants the following week and then select a new councilor.

For more information about applying, call the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969 or drop by City Hall, 1140 12th Ave.

n Received an annual audit from Grove, Mueller & Swank, P.C. The audit included an unmodified opinion, which means the audit was “clean.” A management letter did note that disruptions in staffing led to a lack of review in several areas, and the auditors requested the city address those areas in the coming year.

n Held the first reading of an ordinance outlining the process for restricting the use of water during a disaster or other emergency.

n Approved changes to Youth Advisory Council bylaws as proposed by the YAC.

n Approved the closure of Sankey Park for the annual Sweetheart Run on Feb. 11. Organizers anticipate several hundred participants and vendors. The closure will be in effect from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information about the run or the closure, call City Hall at (541) 367-5128.