Lawmakers on Tuesday held off on deciding whether the state sex offender registry is good enough to allow offenders’ addresses to be posted online.
State law says an audit of the error-ridden registry must be “favorable” before the state can post home addresses of sex offenders on the Internet sex offender registry.
After a 2010 audit found major problems, State Auditor Doug Hoffer last week released a new audit report that found persistent problems, though there were fewer issues than in the previous audit. Hoffer’s office found 253 offender records in the registry with major errors, or 11 percent of the total number of records in the registry.
The problem is, Hoffer’s office won’t say whether the audit is favorable.
“It’s up to you to decide what margin of error is acceptable,” he told lawmakers Tuesday at a meeting of the Joint Corrections Oversight Committee.
Lawmakers declined to pass judgment on whether 253 “critical errors” are too many, but not without disagreement around the committee table.
Rep. Sandy Haas, P/D-Rochester, said the committee should put in writing that the audit is not favorable. Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, agreed.
“I do not find this a favorable audit,” he said.
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Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said to admit the audit is not positive could create fodder for a lawsuit from a defense attorney. He also worried a judgment would be binding and perhaps require another audit before the addresses can go online.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Criminal Information Center has fixed almost all of the errors that were discovered by auditors. Some of the underlying causes of the latest problems were similar to the issues that plagued the 2010 audit, Hoffer’s report said.
Although the audit does not rule whether it is “favorable,” it does recommend that public safety, corrections and court reconvene a previously established working group to assess and possibly redesign the process for putting information into the registry.
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