Sex offender meeting leaves many questions unanswered

Questions still remain for many of those who attended a Thursday night meeting at Poulsbo City Hall addressing public safety concerns related to a Less Restrictive Alternative (LRA) group home — contracted through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services — which houses three, level-three sex offenders in the 17000 block of Viking Way NW in Poulsbo.

Even Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder — who moderated the event — was left asking how the home for high-risk sex offenders was able to be sited without any notification to the county.

“The No. 1 take away for me this evening is that there is a concern about process,” Gelder said. “If everyone is following what they’re supposed to do as dictated by law, then the law has to change.”

A social media firestorm erupted shortly after the announcement of plans for the DSHS-contracted group West Sound Support Services to move more level-three offenders to the LRA from the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center. A Dec. 2 walk and talk event hosted by Gelder in Poulsbo saw some 50 attendees looking for answers, many demanding to know why they weren’t made aware of the LRA sooner.

At Thursday’s meeting, Gelder said he wanted to see the state work more closely with local jurisdictions through the siting process for LRA’s.

“Local jurisdictions need to be at the table, need to be aware of it, need to be able to be a part of the community process that goes before this all happens,” Gelder said.

Present at the meeting were: Julia Crabbe, Department of Social and Health Services; Keith Devos, Department of Social and Health Services; Gary Rink, Department of Corrections; Chris Ervin, Department of Corrections; Eric Adams, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office; and Scott Diener, Kitsap County Department of Community Development.

Also at the meeting were members and organizers of Washington State for Public Safety, which formed in opposition to the housing of the offenders on Viking Way. Organizer Pamela Benson read from a prepared statement at the meeting.

“Our research team has uncovered some disturbing facts and details from the case histories and court documents we have obtained on all three offenders,” Benson read. “These predators have over 50 different locations throughout Kitsap County they are allowed to visit.”

One of the arguments put forth by the group was that by inadequately informing the community of the LRA, DSHS and West Sound Support Services failed to follow state law (RCW 91.09.315) which pertains to community notification of Secure Community Transition Facilities.

The law states that at a minimum, notification is to include “public meetings in the local communities affected, as well as opportunities for written and oral comments.”

Alan Frey, West Sound Support Services’ administrator, declined to provide comment ahead of Thursday’s meeting, stating that he and others from the group would be in attendance to answer questions. They were, however, noticeably absent from the meeting.

One member of the audience offered to assist with the legal fees to fight against the Viking Way LRA. John Johnson offered a 10 percent match, up to $10,000 for any donations going toward legal costs.

“I love this community. I love my kids. I love my grandkids,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to be one of those people expecting other people to take care of my own family.”

— Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com.

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