2008-01-06: Nashua Telegraph: Veto stands on sex offender ordinance

The bill has been vetoed by outgoing mayor Bernie Streeter.

Of particular note is the fact that the current mayor, Donnalee Lozeau, is adamantly opposed to sex-offender residency restrictions for many of the reasons we have expressed, and she even said so during her campaign against Tollner—a campaign which she won. In light of this, we are fairly confident that this fight is over for the foreseeable future.

By Patrick Meighan, Telegraph (original article)

NASHUA — The board of aldermen on Saturday failed to override the mayor’s vetoes of a resolution calling for a referendum on the Broad Street Parkway, and an ordinance restricting where certain sex offenders could live.

In a special, hastily-called meeting, motions to override Mayor Bernie Streeter’s vetoes failed by 6–5 and 9–3 votes respectively, with one alderman arriving between the two votes.

Ten votes from the 15-member board were needed to override the vetoes.

Streeter issued the vetoes, the seventh and eighth of his two terms in office, late Wednesday afternoon, and the special meeting was scheduled at the earliest possible time.

A new board and mayor are to be sworn in today, and Saturday’s meeting was the final action of the board seated two years ago.

The timing hurt the sex-offender ordinance. Alderman-at-Large Jim Tollner proposed the ordinance and would have cast the 10th vote needed to override the veto. However, he was in South Carolina taking his high school daughter to visit a prospective college, and he said he regretted he couldn’t attend.

Ward Aldermen Dick LaRose and Greg Williams also missed the vote. Williams had supported the ordinance in December, while LaRose had not.

Aldermen-at-Large Steve Bolton and Fred Teeboom and Ward 6 Alderman Bob Dion voted against overriding the ordinance, which would have restricted certain sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of city parks, schools and day-care centers.

The ordinance would have applied only to registered sex offenders who have never lived in Nashua and whose victims were younger than 13. Supporters said the ordinance was intended to make Nashua undesirable to sex offenders who might be thinking of moving here.

On Dec. 26, the ordinance was approved by a 7–6 vote. Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy and Ward 5 Alderman Michael Tabacsko were absent from that meeting and voted to override the veto Saturday.

Two aldermen switched their votes between Dec. 26 and Saturday: Alderman-at-Large David Deane and Ward 3 Alderman Daniel Richardson. Also voting to override the mayor’s veto were Alderman-at-Large Dave Rootovich and ward Aldermen Mark Cookson, Marc Plamondon, Dave MacLaughlin and Dick Flynn.

Deane said he didn’t think the ordinance was a good idea, but added, “However, the process with which these rolled out of the mayor’s office is absolutely inappropriate.”

The vetoes were issued late in the afternoon of the seventh day following the board’s vote, the deadline the mayor had to issue a veto, Deane said.

Also, Tollner, the board vice president, and Rootovich, the board president, were removed from an e-mail list and didn’t find out about the vetoes until early Wednesday evening.

With the board’s term ending, there was no time to call a special meeting before Saturday, Deane said. “I just think the whole situation, the way this was handled, absolutely stinks,” Deane said. “As a matter of principle, I will support overriding his veto.”

Bolton said he felt he was in a strange place defending the mayor’s process, with which he said he disagreed. Every mayor should make his feelings known about legislation early on, including whether he would veto it, Bolton said.

“That being said, this mayor has been consistent,” Bolton said.

In every veto, Streeter waited until the afternoon of the seventh day following a vote to issue a veto, allowing time to consider public input, Bolton said.

After the meeting, Richardson said he changed his vote partly because of the principle of how the veto was issued. He also called the sex-offender ordinance a “very difficult” issue, adding, “You want to do something, but you want to do the right thing, too.”

Streeter didn’t attend the meeting. Reached by phone afterward, Streeter called Deane’s criticism of his timing “a red herring.”

“Every single veto I issued I had taken the entire seventh day,” Streeter said.

With the parkway referendum and sex-offender ordinance, Streeter said he had received e-mails urging him to issue vetoes “right up until the last minute.”

Streeter said he was pleased the vetoes were sustained.

“I think they took the right road, since both (pieces of legislation) in all likelihood would have been challenged in court,” Streeter said.

Before the vote on the sex-offender ordinance, Teeboom said police officers and officials with the state Division for Children, Youth and Families and the U.S. Justice Department told him the ordinance would be ineffective and counter-productive.

Teeboom said he promised to help craft an anti-loitering ordinance that police said would more effective in protecting children.

No one spoke before the 6–5 vote to override the resolution that would have called a nonbinding May 6 vote on the Broad Street Parkway proposal.

MacLaughlin arrived late and missed the vote.

The resolution for the referendum had passed by 10–3 in December.

Voting against overriding the veto on Saturday were McCarthy, Bolton, Rootovich, Tabacsko and Plamondon. McCarthy and Tabacsko had missed the December vote.

After the meeting, Rootovich said he had become confused and erred when he voted. He said he had intended to vote to override the veto. His error didn’t make a difference, as the veto still would have been sustained had he voted the way he meant to.