Sex offender will not be allowed to attend NAMI meetings

By Kellen Olshefski


The City of Elkhorn Common Council voted 3-2 against a motion to approve an exemption for a registered sex offender in Elkhorn that would allow him to attend National Alliance on Mental Illness meetings at Matheson Memorial Library during a special Committee of the Whole meeting Oct. 2.

The offender in question was notified of that meeting and called prior to it, but did not attend.

According to City Clerk Cairie Virrueta, in a letter to the council, the man indicated he was looking to attend NAMI meetings in the Community Center at library, held at 6 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Virrueta said the man noted he would be willing to work on a safety plan with his agent through the Department of Corrections, and bring a chaperone with him to the meetings.

When asked how the library felt about the man attending, Library Director Lisa Selje said she wondered if the man’s attendance would be limited solely to the NAMI meetings in the Community Center, or if he would then also have access to the library. Police Chief Joel Christensen said he feels the council could choose to place restrictions that would only allow the man to be in the Community Center portion of the building.

“The only thing I would say is that it is important for an offender to have support systems in place, especially when it comes to mental illness, because once you start taking those support systems away, they’re more likely to reoffend,” Christensen said, which Alderman Scott McClory agreed with.

City Administrator Sam Tapson noted with the nature of the meetings, while adult-oriented, would provide limited exposure to children, which is what the ordinance aims to prevent.

McClory asked if the council could restrict the exemption to the point that would allow the offender to attend the meetings, but only be allowed in the Community Center, and only under the supervision of a “vetted” chaperone. McClory said the council could even restrict him from using public restrooms at the library.

As for a background check on a chaperone, Christensen said the department could check several items relating to a potential chaperone before approving one.

Alderman Michael Kluck said he was concerned with how the offender’s treatment was progressing, as the report provided to the council – which was dated Jan. 25, according to McClory – wasn’t very clear.

Christensen said he could touch base with the agent to obtain a status update on the offender’s treatment progression, which might give councilmembers a clearer understanding.

Alderman Cathy Bensaid noted she would also like to know more about how this particular support group will aid in the offender’s rehabilitation.

McClory made a motion to approve the offender’s exemption, contingent on the following factors:

  • The agent assigned to the offender would need to agree this would be beneficial to his progression and approve his attendance;
  • The offender would be limited to entering through the main entrance of the building and going straight to the Community Center, only immediately before and after the meeting, and bathroom use would be restricted, and;
  • The offender would be required to bring a chaperone that has been vetted and approved by the City of Elkhorn Police Department.

However, other alderman disagreed, stating they preferred to hear what the agent has to say before any type of approval, even with contingencies, for the offender to attend the meetings.

Aldermen Bensaid, Kluck and Bruce Lechner voted against the motion; McClory and Tim Shiroda voted in favor.


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