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Council debates ins and outs of trespass law


February 21, 2017

What happens if someone who has been barred from City Hall or the Police Department under a proposed new city ordinance should have legitimate business to conduct in one or both of those places?

That was a question that came up during the Feb. 14 City Council as councilors held the second reading of an ordinance that would exclude, or trespass, people from city property if they’ve been cited or committed a violation on city property. It is similar to an ordinance already in place for the Sweet Home Public Library and city parks. It does not include city sidewalks or streets.

City Attorney Robert Snyder said he would think about possible exceptions that would allow people who had been excluded from City Hall or the Police Department to access the buildings if they have business with the city.

The Public Safety Committee reviewed the proposed ordinance and referred it to the council for consideration.

Councilors James Goble and Diane Gerson both opposed moving forward with a first reading of the ordinance in January.

Last week, Gerson asked whether it applied to the Police Department and City Hall. Snyder said it would.

“If somebody is, for instance, excluded from City Hall but needs to come to City Hall for business, such as getting a building permit or something such as that in order to make a livelihood – does this deny them that right?” Gerson asked.

“It excludes them from City Hall,” Snyder said. “We wrote it this way. We talked about exceptions like official city business. But basically, pretty soon your exclusion sucks in your whole rule, but we can try to write it. If you’re concerned with that, we can try to write it that way, but we talked about it.

“They’ve got a right to appeal this, and it stays during the appeal process. Basically, we came to the conclusion that for the time limits here and everything, using your example, I guess my example would be, they can probably have a city employee or whoever come to them. It can get done. If they’ve got business, it’ll get done. But yes, that would be the point.”

Councilor Dave Trask said he’d had similar thoughts.

“I would hope you’ll make every effort to handle that situation in a professional way that they can get their stuff resolved,” Trask said. “I think that’s something we need to consider, and I think you answered it.”

“We left it out because it would be the, “Well, I’m here for legitimate business.’’ Snyder said. “Well you can always say you are. That sort of negates the whole....”

Mayor Greg Mahler said that people under an exclusion – trespassed from city property – could call City Hall, and someone from City Hall can take care of the business.

Councilor Lisa Gourley said the penalty is 30 days for committing a crime and 90 if someone does it again.

“If they have business with the city, it seems like the best interest would be not to commit that crime,” Gourley said.

“But if they have to come to the city to have business, wouldn’t they call the city manager and make arrangements for that? And they have a right to appeal. We’re not talking years.

“We’re talking one month or three months if they repeat that, but they’re doing something really naughty or that wouldn’t be occurring to them.”

Gerson said she sees a difference between public buildings and recreational facilities. “It would seem to me that excluding someone from a park or a recreational facility, such as a park or a library, is not the same thing as excluding somebody from a public building where business is done, like the City Hall or the Police Department,” she said.

“If a juvenile is in court, and the mother cussed out the dispatcher and isn’t allowed in there and now the juvenile can’t go to court, that’s an issue.

“OK, so she broke the law, and everybody has to assume the responsibility for their actions. I understand that. To me it’s not the same thing as excluding them from the park or the library because this is a place of business.”

She also noted that the ordinance would require the city manager to act “as an attorney” to “decide if the offense did occur, etc., etc.” Gerson asked whether the city has any other similar situations.

“We have different ordinances that do place the city manager as the first rung on the appeal process,” Snyder answered.

“Sometimes your ordinance will say, some bigger cities, some have an administrative hearings officer. We put in the city manager because that’s usually where the people head anyway. I’ve been wronged.

“I’ll go talk to the city manager. In this particular case, he’s the next rung, and then you guys are after that.”

Goble told the council he didn’t think the city manager should be involved in the appeals process.

“I’d think the city manager would want to stay a neutral party in between the Police Department and ordinances until the appeal process gets going,” he said.

“OK. I’ll do some thinking,” Snyder said at the end of the discussion. “I will work on that.”

He said he might have some ideas, which he will explain when he returns to the council for the third reading on Feb. 28. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Annex behind City Hall.

He also told the council that the third reading could be held off until later, if necessary.

Present at the council meeting were Gourley, Gerson, Goble, Mahler and Trask. Ryan Underwood was absent.


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