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Monitoring Firm Locked Out : Visits: Council rejects a plan to have criminals wearing ankle bracelets come to the city for checks.

April 01, 1993|KAREN E. KLEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MONROVIA — The Monrovia City Council unanimously decided this week not to let a home-detention monitoring firm bring its criminal clients into the city for monthly checkups of electronic ankle bracelets.

The council denied a conditional-use permit this week for Linda Connelly & Associates Inc. Clients from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties report to the firm's office at 1000 S. Magnolia Ave. to have bracelets attached and removed and for regular monthly visits. The permit would have allowed the firm no more than 25 visits a day and 500 clients total.

Connelly, who has been operating in Monrovia since last October but was only recently determined to require a permit, said after Tuesday's vote that she will stop seeing her 83 clients in Monrovia. The council's decision does not affect the firm's administrative or electronic-monitoring operations, which were issued business licenses last week.

Connelly would not comment on the council's decision and said she has not yet decided whether she will sue the city.

Police Chief Joseph Santoro, who appealed an earlier Planning Commission decision to approve the permit, recommended Tuesday that the council approve the company's permit but impose six stringent conditions he had drafted that would have limited its Monrovia clientele to people who committed a narrow list of low-risk offenses.

He also wanted to get the names, birth dates and criminal offenses of clients, which the Los Angeles County Probation Department agreed Monday to provide to him.

"We'll hold their feet to the fire very closely," Santoro said, adding that he thought that he could adequately regulate the business if his conditions were met. Those conditions included prohibiting the company from bringing clients to the Monrovia office who had been convicted of such crimes as possession of narcotics, vandalism, burglary, fraud and disorderly conduct.

But although Connelly agreed not to see clients convicted of battery, vehicle theft and residential burglary in the Monrovia office, she would not agree to limit her clients to the range of offenses that Santoro listed: drunk driving, vehicle violations, welfare fraud, failure to pay child support and perjury.

"The list (of excluded offenses) is getting ridiculously long," Connelly told the council. "Someone convicted of insurance fraud is no threat to Monrovia."

Connelly's decision to reject Santoro's proposal led the council to vote to deny her a permit for seeing any of her clients in Monrovia.

Her attorney, Ralph J. Leech, said Connelly has 30 days in which to bring suit asking a court to compel the city to allow her business to operate. "It's clear that (the denial of the permit) has to do with the kinds of persons that come to her program. They're saying, 'Put this somewhere else but don't put it here,' " Leech said.

One Monrovia resident at Tuesday's meeting carried a sign that read, "Not in Our Backyard."

Connelly and probation officials said only low-risk offenders are sentenced to home detention and denied that anyone who is potentially a threat to the community would be on the company's program.

But Santoro and dozens of residents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting and at an earlier March meeting were not so sure. Several petitions against the company were presented, one bearing more than 500 signatures.

"They're asking for 500 leaps of faith a month coming into our community," said Dave Gayman, a resident and Old Town Monrovia merchant. "If you put a glass jar out on the (City Hall) counter and ask for contributions in case of litigation, I don't think you'd have any trouble paying for it."

Joe Garcia, president of the Monrovia Old Home Preservation Group, said Monrovia is not the place for an electronic-monitoring firm. "We are not Los Angeles or San Francisco. We are a small town with the potential to be seriously impacted by this business," he said.

The Probation Department has offered Connelly the use of its offices to attach and remove the bracelets and the required monthly checkups.

Linda Connelly & Associates, which also operates a monitoring service in San Francisco, is one of a number of private firms approved by the county to run home-detention programs. Through advanced technology, the company is able to monitor electronic transmitters attached to the bodies of convicted criminals so the court can assure that they are staying at home or at work and not violating their sentences.

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