Tonawanda News

September 20, 2012

County moves to repeal offender law

BY BILL WOLCOTT
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Legislator Paul Wojtaszek of North Tonawanda regretfully asked for a repeal of the first law he introduced in the county Legislature in 2008.

His resolution Tuesday called for the repeal of the “Niagara County Pedophile-free child safety zone.” A public hearing will be held at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 2 and Local Law No. 6 of 2008 is expected to be taken off the books.

The local law has been overruled by state law and challenged in the county. Rather than face court costs, the Niagara County Attorney’s Office recommended it be repealed in full.

The City of Lockport recently repealed its sex offender residency law, which was similar to the county law, in deference to the state.

“I’m regretfully conceding we repeal the law because of the state pre-emption doctrine,” Wojtaszek said. “It was one of the first things I did after I was elected ... Our law was reasonable. The big thing, it was a deterrent from people reoffending. It was a good, well-thought out law.”

There are 437 registered sex offennders in Niagara County and the legislator feels it’s still a salient issue.

County Attorney Claude Joerg said, “The New York state system is so pervasive, the state has preempted the field. Therefore the towns and cities can no longer implement their own statutes regarding this.

Laws have been struck down throughout the state. In Niagara County, there have been two lawsuits, one is still pending and one has been dismissed.

“It wasn’t challenged (in the city of Lockport), but we heard that it might be challenged,” Mayor Michael Tucker said. “It was at a point where the district attorney wasn’t going to enforce it. We didn’t want to chance a lawsuit we probably couldn’t win ... We did what we had to do. Not one of them enjoyed doing it.”

The mayor added, “Ours was real strict and we wanted it to be real strict.”