Mitchell: Registered sex offender on city payroll flouts rules

SHARE Mitchell: Registered sex offender on city payroll flouts rules
SHARE Mitchell: Registered sex offender on city payroll flouts rules

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We all make mistakes.

Some mistakes, however, like the indecent solicitation of a child, you don’t get to walk away from unscathed.

For instance, because former Congressman Mel Reynolds was convicted in 1994 of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography, he is required to register as a sex offender and is restricted where he can live.

That requirement became an issue for Reynolds when he recently was trying to find some place to live while out on bond on a tax case.

But in the case of one city of Chicago worker convicted of a sex crime, not only has he walked away unscathed, he has prospered.

OPINION

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In 2007, Terrence “Terry” Sheahan was convicted of soliciting a lewd sex act in an online chat room from someone he believed to be a 15-year-old boy.

At the time, Sheahan was an electrical engineer for the city’s Department of Environment.

He was found guilty of three counts of indecent solicitation of a child and was sentenced to two years probation.

As part of his punishment, Sheahan also has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Sheahan’s conviction is hardly a secret. There were several news reports about his arrest and conviction. Additionally, if you go to the Illinois Sex Offender Information Website, a photograph of Sheahan pops up along with his height, weight, race, gender and current address.

The “sex offender” label prevents an offender from accepting employment or volunteer work that will bring him or her in direct contact with minor children without permission of the court.

For most offenders, registering as a sex offender is like having to walk around with a scarlet letter on your back.

But apparently the requirement hasn’t stopped Sheahan from getting around.

Last month, Sheahan, who still works for the Chicago Department of Public Health as a Haz Mat Coordinator, joined dozens of other city employees for a daylong staff meeting at South Shore International College Preparatory High School.

A tipster complained that the school is right next to a park, and because Sheahan is a registered sex offender he should not have been inside the school building.

Attempts to reach Sheahan by phone and by email were not successful.

But in response to my inquiry, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Health confirmed that Sheahan attended the daylong session inside the school building.

“It is unacceptable and unlawful for sex offenders to be present in Chicago schools. Upon learning of this incident, CDPH filed a police report and requested the Inspector General to conduct a full investigation,” Cristina Villarreal said in an email.

“CDPH will fully cooperate with both the Chicago Police Department and the Inspector General. Additionally, the individual had a responsibility to notify his supervisor that he was unable to participate in this particular work event, yet he failed to do so.”

I believe in redemption and I believe Sheahan deserves a second chance in life. But that doesn’t mean he should be able to ignore this aspect of his punishment.

People who have been convicted of sex crimes — particularly those involving minors — shouldn’t be able to fly under the radar.

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