Legislators want all on same page

Needing a universal interpretation of one clause in a proposed amendment to the city curfew law is desired before a Wapakoneta City Council committee will place its stamp of approval on the necessary changes.

Wapakoneta Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. and his committee members, 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee and Councilor-at-large Steve Walter, want the city administrators, police officers and the juveniles judges to interpret “having care and custody” of a non-adult to have the same meaning to each of the respective parties.

“After thoughtful review, our committee is unanimous that the existing law contains a provision to allow non-parent or non-legal guardians to have temporary custody of a youth subject to the curfew law,” Finkelmeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News after Wednesday’s Health and Safety Committee meeting. “We believe what is necessary is a better understanding between the police department and the administration over the intent of the existing legislation.”

The curfew law restricts youths under the age of 18 from being out in public after midnight and prior to 5 a.m. without parental or legal guardian supervision.

Finkelmeier, who chairs the Health and Safety Committee, recommended Safety-Service Director Bill Rains have Police Chief Russ Hunlock interpret “having care and custody” and to have Law Director Dennis Faller provide a legal interpretation of the clause so the committee can meet in the future and move forward with a recommendation to council.

Committee members earlier agreed curfew hours should be changed and simplified to midnight to 5 a.m. every day from the recently imposed hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

They also agreed to expand the reasons for permitting youth to be able to circumvent curfew law such as school activities and organized athletic events, including high school sporting events and professional sporting events.

The hour-long discussion Wednesday focused on how to word a provision to permit an adult, who is not the parent or legal guardian, to have the legal authority over a youth so that the youth is not in violation of curfew. Committee members did not want the curfew law to permit a young adult to be permitted to have multiple teens or youth in their control in defiance of the intent of the law.

Finkelmeier explained a parent or legal guardian would have to grant another person temporary custody of a youth. He and Walter said they believed the word “having” fulfilled this requirement.

Finkelmeier said police officers could contact parents or the legal guardian to determine if the youth had the right to be out with a temporary guardian. If they were not given permission, then the youth would be in violation of the curfew law.

Lee said he would like “have” replaced with “being granted” or “being given” care and custody of the non-adult.

Wapakoneta area resident Tammy Hegemier attended the meeting and after talks with police officials still supported a “one-strike” rule, which would permit a youth one violation before they could be cited for a curfew violation.

Finkelmeier said another Health and Safety Committee meeting would be scheduled in the future after receiving a legal interpretation of the phrase.