O'Malley activates sex offender advisory board

Governor plans to reconstitute panel that never met

January 27, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz | julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

Gov. Martin O'Malley has activated the state's dormant Sexual Offender Advisory Board - a decision that comes after state lawmakers learned this month that the board they created four years ago never met and failed to produce a required report on the state's sex offender policies.

The Democratic governor is expected to announce today that reconstitution of the board is among six proposals on sex offenders he will push for this year. He'll also seek lifetime supervision of violent and repeat sex offenders, changes to the state sex offender registry that will bring it into federal compliance, and criminal background checks for employees at all facilities that care for or supervise children.

The board's primary function, said O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec, will be to "help redefine its own purpose." O'Malley's plan is to add members with specific expertise in sex offender treatment and broaden the authority of the board.

Former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. will serve as chairman. Other members have not yet been selected, Adamec said, though the law requires that several Cabinet members take part. The first meeting is to be next week.

Curran, who is the governor's father-in-law, said he has long advocated sex offender reforms, including civil commitments for predators, something he said he still favors. Curran said he believes the board "can make a real difference."

"We'll see what the issues are, what the problems are and what solutions we can all agree upon," Curran said. He plans to spend the next several days studying sex offender laws and proposed reforms.

Some lawmakers who approved creation of the board as part of emergency sex offender legislation in 2006 say the O'Malley administration needs to explain why it hasn't been meeting over the years.

The governor's aides say lawmakers should have been aware the board was not meeting because O'Malley proposed changing its members last year and in 2008 as part of a failed effort to require that homeless sex offenders be added to the state registry.

The House Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing one week from today to "ascertain what exactly happened," said Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat on the committee.

He said the idea behind the board was that it conduct a "sober, careful review" of state policy so that lawmakers did not propose reactionary reforms when a tragedy occurred.

Sex offense has catapulted back into the spotlight with the December killing of an 11-year-old girl on the Eastern Shore. A registered sex offender is a suspect in the crime.

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