Registered sex offenders already living in the town of Cicero won’t have to move to comply with a town law regulating their residence, according to a decision made by the town board Friday Jan. 11.
The board voted three to one to approve a grandfather clause that would allow registered sex offenders to remain in their homes, provided that they lived in the town prior to the passage of Chapter 168 of the local laws of the town of Cicero. The law, entitled The Sex Offenders Residency Restrictions, states that registered sex offenders cannot live within a one-mile radius of the main, secondary or tertiary entrances of any school or day care center or a 1,500-foot radius of the main, secondary or tertiary entrances of any park or playground.
The law, passed in November of 2006, was challenged in July of last year when Scott Burdick, a registered class two sex offender, sued the town, Supervisor Chester “Chet” Dudzinski and Cicero Police Chief Joseph Snell. Burdick, who has lived on Pickett Lane for 17 years, located within one mile of Gillette Road Middle School, did not seek monetary damages, but instead asked only to be allowed to remain in his home.
In response to the suit, the board held a public hearing at its Dec. 19 meeting regarding adding a grandfather clause to allow those who lived in violation of the restrictions to remain in their homes.
At that time, the board voted not to include the clause, but the issue was revisited Jan. 11. This time the board approved the clause, with Dudzinski voicing the only dissenting vote.
Clause closes loophole
“When we originally put the law into effect, we were the first in Onondaga County to do it, and we put in a lot of research,” said board member Vern Conway. “But we still missed some points here and there.”
“The amendment is a good idea,” said board member Charlotte Tarwacki. “I believe you can’t legislate one way or another and not offend someone and deal with every possible problem.”
The move was also supported by some of the few members of the public in attendance.
“I’m glad to hear that this provision will be included,” said town resident Thomas Beaulieu. “It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t addressed in the law itself. Why was this not visited at the time to make sure every base was covered?”
But not everyone supported the move. Dudzinski voted against the change.
“My position is that we need to protect all the children in the town of Cicero,” Dudzinski said in an interview after the meeting. “I don’t have grandchildren yet, but it would really bother me to think and to know that they’re near a sex offender when they’re in school. I want to protect all young people in the town of Cicero.”
Deputy Supervisor James Corl, an attorney, was in court the morning of Jan. 11 and did not attend the public hearing. However, he echoed Dudzinski’s statements.
“If I had been able to attend the meeting, I would have voted against it,” said Corl, who proposed the original legislation. “I think the original law as drafted would have withstood any type of challenge and would have been upheld.”
Corl said he disapproves of the grandfather clause because it dilutes the original intent of the law.
“It essentially allows level two and three sex offenders to reside within those high-risk zones that we had originally designated as an entire board,” Corl said.
As for Burdick, the board has conjectured that he will drop his lawsuit, though his attorney, G. Robert McAllister, refused to comment on the matter.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.