Over City's Objections, Sex Offender Ex-Priest Still Living near Park
By Scott Cooper Williams
Green Bay Press-Gazette
June 30, 2013
|Children play at VT Pride Park about one block away from where sex offender Donald Buzanowski is living.|
Six months after exposing a loophole in Green Bay’s sex offender ordinance, a former Catholic priest convicted of molesting a young boy continues living near a public park on the city’s east side.
Donald Buzanowski, 70, moved to an apartment building at 2258 Imperial Lane last year despite being banned from living there by the city’s Sex Offender Residence Board.
City officials later discovered that they had no jurisdiction over Buzanowski, because he was convicted under a state law not listed among the city’s reasons for restricting where sex offenders could live.
Aldermen voted to close the loophole in December, but they have since learned that the change cannot be applied retroactively to Buzanowski.
So the convicted child molester still resides about one block away from VT Pride Park, where children gather regularly for a summer recreation program offered by the city.
The situation has neighbors upset — and city officials frustrated.
Alderman Andy Nicholson, who represents the area, said he thinks the arrangement has put neighborhood children in a precarious position. Nicholson said he is continuing to search for a solution.
“I’m not giving up on this,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right.”
VT Pride Park, located at 2203 Imperial Lane, has playground equipment and a shelter. From June until August, the city offers a supervised summer recreation program there for children aged 6 and older.
Among those voicing concern about having Buzanowski near the park is Judy Schauer, whose son, David, was the victim in the case that got Buzanowski convicted. David Schauer now lives out of state, but his parents live only a few blocks from Imperial Lane.
Judy Schauer said she cannot understand why city officials seem helpless to keep a known predator away from a park where children play.
“That’s a part that just baffles me,” she said. “It just blows my mind.”
Buzanowski was a Catholic priest in Green Bay during the late 1980s when he sexually assaulted then-fifth grader David Schauer at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School. Evidence presented in the case showed that Buzanowski had been molesting children since the 1960s.
Convicted in 2005, Buzanowski was sent to prison for seven years. After his release, he petitioned the city for permission to move to the apartment building at 2258 Imperial Lane. The Sex Offender Residence Board denied his request — with some members expressing concerns that he would commit another crime — but he moved into the building anyway.
At the time, landlord Fred Bennett said Buzanowski’s state parole agent provided assurances that the former priest could live there legally.
The city’s sex offender ordinance, approved in 2007, prohibits offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any park, school or other place where children gather. Before moving into any restricted area, an offender must win an appeal before the city residence board.
Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker said the ordinance was tightened in December to include Buzanowski and others convicted under the same law. But with Buzanowski already living on Imperial Lane, the updated ordinance could not be enforced retroactively and used to relocate him.
“There’s not much we can do,” Decker said.
Neither Buzanowski nor his landlord could be reached for comment.
The state’s sex offender registry confirms that Buzanowski is still living at the Imperial Lane address.
A neighbor, Henry Backhaus, who lives alone in the same apartment building, said he has complained to city officials many times about Buzanowski. Several children live in the area, and many parents are concerned about having Buzanowski as a neighbor, Backhaus said.
“The fact that he’s here is a problem, as far as I’m concerned,” Backhaus said.
Children throughout the area gather at VT Pride Park for the recreation program between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The same summer program is offered at more than 25 other parks throughout the city.
Nicholson said he is uncomfortable having the program at VT Pride Park with Buzanowski living so close.
But the alderman added: “Instead of closing down the park, why don’t we remove him?”