Kent: Sober house operator broke law by allowing sex offenders in

KENT, Wash. -- Kent's mayor says she feels deceived after learning several sex offenders are living in homes declared clean and sober houses and wants to go after those who own and operate the homes.

Eddie Weber, who manages 13 of the clean and sober homes in Kent, says he's dedicated his life to helping people get back on their feet.

"My heart goes out to people," he said. "They need a place to live -- everybody needs a place to live."

Weber says 150 recovering addicts live in the homes, and of those, 38 are convicted sex offenders. But he says he feels like the city is trying to push him out.

But Mayor Suzette Cook says Weber runs six of 10 transitional homes that are not complying with city code, which states sex offender group homes are not permitted in neighborhoods, and they're not to be within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, day cares or churches.

"It was presented as clean and sober housing... so I felt deceived," Cook said. "5, 6 or more sex offenders staying in one house -- now we are dealing with a whole different situation."

Weber says he gets that it's an uncomfortable situation.

"I mean, even I'm uncomfortable with it, but that doesn't change the fact that they have got to live somewhere," Weber said.

Weber insists everyone living in his group homes are recovering addicts dealing with drug and alcohol issues. He argues regardless of their convictions, they should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But acting city attorney Pat Fitzpatrick says the sex offender issue trumps the issue of ADA qualified.

"They are a sex offender," Fitzpatrick said. "Just because they're recovering alcoholics as well does not take away or diminish our ability to regulate it."

Cook said Weber was thus required to get a permit with the city of Kent.

"None of that was heeded by these particular operators," Cook said.

The city says Weber has to either take action and move out, or pay hefty fines.

Weber says he's going bankrupt.

"They probably will run me out of business and the plan is to run them out of town so I am going to fight until I can't," he said.

The deadline to comply is Sept. 3, and after that Weber will have to pay a daily fine of $500 for each property in violation -- or $3,000 a day.

The city says it will go to court if necessary, while Weber said he plans to take his fight to the federal level.