Amendment to child safety ordinance on hold

NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses last week continued a public hearing on an amendment to an ordinance that created child safety zones as another municipality with a similar ordinance is facing a lawsuit.

The borough’s ordinance, which was adopted earlier this year, prohibits registered sex offenders from entering child safety zones — borough-owned or borough-operated parks, schools, playgrounds, recreation and event centers, pools, gyms, sports fields and facilities, trails, or open space areas. The board is considering an amendment that would allow registered sex offenders to apply for a waiver to the ordinance if they meet certain criteria.

Attorney Tim Fitzpatrick, who represents the borough as part of its legal counsel, requested that the board hold off on closing the public hearing until after a ruling is made in a lawsuit filed against Windsor Locks.

Fitzpatrick said Windsor Locks has a similar ordinance and is being sued over the ordinance. He said the lawsuit was filed by a man, named only as John Doe in the lawsuit, who was convicted of third-degree sexual assault in 1995 against an adult victim.

“That’s the main portion of the complaint, that this person never had a conviction against a child but the town of Windsor Locks is talking about child safety as we are here,” Fitzpatrick said.

According to the lawsuit, the unnamed man claims the ordinance violates his constitutional rights. The lawsuit states that John Doe wants to use the library and attend festivals in Windsor Locks as well as attend sporting events that his young child is involved with in the town. The lawsuit is seeking for Windsor Locks to abandon the ordinance.

Connecticut for One Standard of Justice, a civil rights organization that advocates for people accused of or convicted of sex offenses, is also named in the complaint as a plaintiff. A message left for Cindy Prizio, executive director of Connecticut for One Standard of Justice, Inc., wasn’t returned.

Burgess Rocky Vitale asked why the borough would be facing litigation since the state allows for child safety zones.

Even though the state allows for child safety zones, Fitzpatrick said municipalities have to prove that the zones are needed and warranted.

“The town does have the right to enact a child safety ordinance. But, when you are enacting it, you have to have evidence to support the reason for doing that. If you don’t, that is when a court will come down on you on a constitutional charge,” Fitzpatrick said.