QUEENSBURY -- Warren County has suspended enforcement of its law that bans registered sex offenders from living close to schools, playgrounds and parks in the face of a lawsuit charging the law is unconstitutional, according to the lawyer for the plaintiff.
The county’s 2006 law limits where any sex criminal convicted of illicit acts against children can live and work.
Albany-based lawyer Kathy Manley, who represents an unnamed level two sex offender, said Warren County’s law banning convicted sex criminals from living or working within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, even after they’ve completed parole, unlawfully supersedes state jurisdiction.
“It doesn’t make sense to essentially banish people from areas where they could potentially get treatment or find employment,” she said.
State law places limitations on where offenders can live and work only until they have completed parole.
The offender Manley represents — listed as “John Doe” in the lawsuit filed Feb. 6 — wants to move in with his mother in Queensbury, according to court documents filed at Warren County state Supreme Court.
He was convicted in 2010 in Washington County of sexual acts with a minor who was under 16, and he served two years in prison, the lawsuit states. Manley said her client has completed parole, but is still barred from moving in with his mother under county law.
County Attorney Martin Auffredou has agreed to suspend enforcement of the county law until the constitutional challenge is settled.
“What we’re going to do is not enforce this for the time being until I talk to the Board of Supervisors about it,” Auffredou said.
John Doe is expected to move in to his mother’s residence soon, Manley said.
Warren County Board Chairman Kevin Geraghty and Sheriff Bud York both acknowledged talking this week with Auffredou about the matter. York declined comment when asked about the policy change.
Geraghty said no one has spoken yet about repealing the local law, and he referred any additional comment to Auffredou.
Washington County officials couldn’t provide John Doe’s identity with the information provided in the lawsuit.
“We’re giving ourselves time to look at the law and how comparable laws have fared in other counties,” Auffredou said. “In my view, there is sufficient state law in place as a safeguard.”
Manley said she wasn’t sure which school playground or public park John Doe’s mother lives near.
Counties across the state — including Washington County — passed similar sex offender statutes in recent years, only to have them ruled unconstitutional in the courts.
Essex and Franklin county lawmakers recently convened a forum to discuss what local governments could do to address growing concern about where local sex offenders live and work.
The discussions resulted in little action after county lawyers advised county lawmakers of the constitutional problems with such restrictions.