NEWS

New York town may restrict sex offenders’ polling places

Colleen M. Farrell

Greece Central, after hearing from some concerned parents, is looking into whether it can dictate where convicted sex offenders vote.

The district doesn't have a policy restricting them when it comes to voting. But a few concerned parents are hoping to change that. And now the district is looking at enacting a policy. The Board of Education could discuss the proposed policy at its Tuesday meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Apollo Middle School, 750 Maiden Lane.

Superintendent Steven Achramovitch will share a draft of the policy with the board, according to district spokesperson Laurel Heiden.

The issue came up after parents at Longridge Elementary called the police when they spotted a registered sex offender voting at the school Dec. 13.

The parents were able to identify the man because they have received notification that he was living in their neighborhood. The Greece Police Department responded to the school but said the man had every right to be there. The department declined to identify the man.

"There were no conditions which barred him from going into the school," said Lt. Steve Wise. "It was a very unique situation and again I want to stress there were no kids around. The guy was going in to vote and this came about and now it's being looked into."

An offender's conditions can vary upon release. Some offenders are not allowed to hold certain jobs or must live a certain distance from a park. Conditions can vary from a certain length of time to a lifetime, Wise said.

Some, though, don't have anything attached to their names other than the classification, he said. That was the case of this man, Wise said. He is a level-three sex offender, which indicates the court system thinks he’s a high risk.  But he’s not on parole or probation so he has no restrictions.

The department has been working with the district on the issue but what happens next is up to the district, Wise said. He said he can't recall an incident like this.

That the man could be on school grounds was a shock to mother of two Maret Godfrey, who thinks most parents aren't aware of the district's lack of policy. She called Longridge staff and the police after her husband saw the sex offender on school property when he dropped off their daughter. She wants the district to restrict where all offenders vote, either having them vote at a building without kids or by absentee ballot.

The district is considering doing just that.

Currently, visitors must stop and sign in at the main office in the elementary schools and at the security station at the secondary schools. A new policy would require sex offenders get written permission from the school principal or superintendent before entering school property for any reason, said Heiden.

Sex offenders will be notified of any policy change via written communication, she said. For voting, offenders can either vote by absentee ballot or in school, but they must call ahead and arrange a time to do so. If they show up without an appointment and try to vote, police will be called and the individual could face trespassing charges, Heiden said.

Election inspectors will also be alerted about the policy and be given information on sex offenders in town, like photographs and names, Heiden said.

Before it can take effect, the policy needs to be aired in front of the Board of Education. It will likely get its first reading in February, Heiden said. If it goes through, it will be in place in time for the May budget and board member election vote.

Godfrey’s biggest worry is what she sees as a lack of protection for kids, especially since the offender in question knows he didn't violate the law or district rules.

"He knows he can go in and do this without getting harassed, without getting questions, now," Godfrey said. "The kids have seen him in the school now, in the hallways ... and so if they see this guy out on the street I'm concerned about what could happen then."

Colleen M. Farrell can be reached at (585) 394-0770 Ext. 265, or at cfarrell@mpnewspapers.com.