Rhinelander Council Approves Sex Offender Ordinance, Appeals Panel Needed

Aug 13, 2019

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The Rhinelander common council this week approved an updated law concerning locating sex offenders within the city limits but left open a now-required appeals panel for offenders. Courts have determined new rules that governments large and small must have regarding sex offender locations.

One of the new provisions requires the right of appeal, as City Administrator Daniel Guild explains...

"...One of the provisions within the ordinance that guarantees the due process rights of offenders is to create a residency restrictions appeals board, so folks who find the restrictions we've imposed to be unnecessarily harsh given their particular circumstances that they have recourse to go to and talk about their appeal..."

Left open was the composition of that appeals board. Guild says the council can appoint a citizen board to hear the appeal, similar to zoning appeals. Another option is to have the council be the appeals board, with a third option possibly being the Police and Fire Commission.

City Attorney Hector De La Mora says courts found the right of appeal was denied in many local ordinances, so they said an appeals process had to be established...

"..Some of these restrictions are somewhat geometric and mechanical and there are peculiar circumstances that may not have been anticipated and this is a mechanism to deal with that..."

De La Mora says other communities he's worked with think the board has a policy role along with a fact-finding board. He says those communities have elected officials be the appeals board so they can be open to the feelings of the electorate. The council postponed a decision on what form the appeals panel will take.