City, county leaders respond to uproar over sex offender relocation to Spokane
SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Commissioners and a Spokane City Council member are responding to backlash over the release of convicted sex offenders into Spokane County.
In recent months, several sex offenders have been released from McNeil Island’s Special Commitment Center and have moved to Spokane. Public outcry over the release of the offenders comes following KXLY 4’s in-depth coverage over the course of many months.
Many of these offenders have been released to the Lincoln House on N. Lincoln St. and W. Boone Ave. It currently houses 10 level-two and three sex offenders.
The manager of the Lincoln House previously told KXLY he can provide the mornitoring required to keep track of someone under strict restrictions put in place by the state.
One Spokane woman even went as far as to start a change.org petition begging for an end to the relocation of these offenders to Spokane County. As of this writing, the petition had over 5,200 signatures.
The Board of Commissioners sent a release on Tuesday saying “their hands are tied.” According to the Revised Code of Washington 9.94A.8445, all cities, counties, municipalities and local agencies are prohibited from setting any and all rules, regulations, codes, statutes or ordinances pertaining to the location or residency restrictions for person convicted of any sex offense at any time.
KXLY spoke with county commissioner Josh Kerns Wednesday. We asked Kerns about a recent temporary ordinance passed by Kitsap County, which limits the areas where sexually violent predators can live.
“We’ve been contacted by many constituents saying, you know, ‘why doesn’t Spokane County do this?’ Spokane County has already done this,” Kerns said. “This is actually something we’ve done over a decade ago.”
He said that’s about as much as the commissioners can do within unincorporated Spokane County. Right now, Kerns told KXLY, there are no Secure Community Transition Facilities in unincorporated Spokane County or proposals for any.
“As county commissioners, we can only impact zoning in the areas that are not located within a city jurisdiction,” Kerns said.
Take the City of Poulsbo for example. The city council there just passed a short-term ordinance zoning high risk secured facilities, like the Lincoln House, to light industrial use areas instead of residential areas. The ordinance doesn’t ban them from being released into the town or county, it regulates the zoning as to where they can live.
KXLY asked city council member Lori Kinnear if this was something the City of Spokane could adopt.
“I don’t think it’ll stand up in a court of law,” she said. “Ultimately, we have to obey the rules of the state and not do one-offs in cities.”
Kinnear believes that ordinance goes against state law and it could be challenged in court. She doesn’t want to take that risk.
“To go through that effort and then have it challenged and struck down by a court of law, then you’re back at zero again and have to start over,” Kinnear said. “For me, I think I’d rather work with my legislators because I think that is, to me, it’s the fast track to get what we need to have happen here.”
The Board of Commissioners also urged the public to contact regional state representatives, senators and the governor regarding their concerns.
Both Kerns and Kinnear told KXLY they are working with state legislators to see what can be done to change this law to regulate the areas in which convicted sex offenders may and may not be released.
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