GRANDVIEW - Barely six months after it was adopted, a revised Grandview city ordinance targeting criminal gangs has been ruled unconstitutional.
Some provisions in the city's revised code, Title 9, are overly broad and unconstitutional, a District Court judge recently ruled.
The public received the news during the city council's regular meeting last night, Monday.
"Many of the sections of our ordinance are overly broad and cannot be understood as to what action would be criminal," City Attorney Jack Maxwell wrote in a memo to Scott Staples, the city administrator.
Maxwell told council that much of the trouble stems from truancy language in the code that was placed at the request of the Grandview School District. "That was a big mistake," he said. Maxwell explained the truancy portion of city code can only be applied when state truancy laws are enforced.
Grandview resident Mike Everett is an attorney who has represented some indigent defendants in the city. He told council to ask the school board to enforce truancy laws already on the state books. "There is a set of state laws that the school district does not seek to enforce," Everett claimed.
As to the city's revisions of its Title 9 code this past October in response to criminal gangs, Everett urged council not to look for a "quick fix" to the issue.
He noted one recent case involved a mother who asked police to help when her son refused to go to school. Everett said police visited the residence and gave a note to the son asking him to pass it on to the mother. Everett said the note was not relayed to the mother. When she did not call police back, the mother was arrested for violating the new, tougher city code.
Police Chief Dave Charvet interjected there is a problem with truancy, with parents who he says are still in their pajamas in the early afternoon, watching TV while their children are at large and not in school.
Since its inception, the new city law has resulted in 19 arrests of failure to supervise a child and 17 arrests regarding lack of parental responsibility.
Mayor Norm Childress countered Everett's comments by noting the council worked hard to find a solution to criminal gangs, while realizing there could be challenges ahead. "We were diligent in trying to put out a good product," the mayor said.
Ironically, Grandview's code tightening last October was intended to give police a tool to help in combating criminal gangs without the possible legal ramifications of a full out anti-gang ordinance like the one previously approved by Sunnyside.
With a new state anti-gang bill on the books that defines what a criminal gang is-and with the city's effort thrown out by the court-Childress said later last night that the city will again look at anti-gang laws passed in Sunnyside and Yakima as it revisits its own code.