@THE GUSS REPORT-With Governor Jerry Brown recently signing a law which will soon allow some California sex offenders to be free of the requirement of having to register for rest of their lives (an idea which may have some merit depending on circumstances) Angelenos are already at greater inherent risk if today’s column is any indication.
In this instance, pay less attention to the sex offender in question, and more to the slew of government agencies that either didn’t know what was going on or have turned a blind eye to it and have collectively failed to inform one specific Los Angeles community about the matter.
A few hours before Los Angeles voters went to the polls for a recent election, an unaccompanied man hauled voting equipment and confidential voter information into an LA elementary school’s auditorium through a front entrance as early arriving children and teachers trickled in during the early part of the 6am hour.
According to the LAUSD and the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, this man’s presence at the school is strictly prohibited because he is a registered sex offender with a years-old aggravated felony for lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14.
The LAUSD advises that no registered sex offender is allowed on any of its campuses unless he or she is the parent or guardian of a matriculating student at the school and has specific school-related business to address on behalf of that student, and has advised the principal of his or her offender status.
When I later asked the school’s principal whether he was aware of the man’s presence on campus, he said he was not. But in the extended period of time since that conversation, the LAUSD says that it received no incident report regarding this or any similar situation, a protocol violation, given that the principal was also told about the incident by a detective with the LAPD’s REACT unit, which investigates possible sex offender violations. Such a report would have then been filtered up to the LAUSD’s police department for investigation.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder strictly bans registered sex offenders from volunteering in polling activities. While it confirms that the man was also a paid volunteer during at least six other Election Days in recent years within the City of Los Angeles and other neighboring communities, it refuses to state at which locations and on what dates. Moreover, the Registrar-Recorder has refused to state if it has since purged the man from its volunteer rolls, and whether it has since (or ever) conducted a background check on all other volunteers for sex offenses or other violent or information security crimes.
The LAPD’s REACT detective advises that he spoke with the principal and the sex offender, who he declined to arrest. That raises the question of who is looking out for the rights of parents of school children to know when an unauthorized entry is made onto a school campus, as well as the rights of all registered voters to know when their personal information has been compromised.
But the story doesn’t end there.
The Los Angeles City Clerk, which oversaw this particular election and gets its volunteer list from the County, says that it still has received no notification of the incident from the Registrar-Recorder.
And finally, Nury Martinez, the Los Angeles City Councilmember in whose District the school is located, and who regularly grandstands about the sexual exploitation of children, has been silent about the incident when asked about it both at the time it occurred and as recently as last week when she literally ran out of a City Council meeting when I again raised the issue. Martinez has yet to notify her constituents of what happened.
(Note: a week earlier, Martinez called for the resignation of California State Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra for multiple incidents of sexual misconduct. Her husband, Gerardo Guzman, works for Bocanegra, raising the question of whether she becomes vocal on such issues only if it impacts her family’s income, but not your family’s safety.)
Is this particular registered sex offender still a danger to the public? Maybe not, though there are untold elements of this story that might make you believe otherwise. And the fact that he has long ignored rules of the LAUSD and Registrar-Recorder speaks volumes.
Whether this is a one-off situation or a more pervasive risk to communities around Los Angeles and across California has yet to be determined. But Governor Brown and the California legislature have already made it tougher to find out. The agencies and officials that are supposed to protect us have begun to let down their guard. While it might make sense to enable certain low-risk offenders with unique circumstances – e.g. ones without aggravated convictions – to restore some elements of their earlier lives, it should not be done at the expense of public safety.
You can see which registered sex offenders are in your community by visiting the Megan’s Law California website at https://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.