When the Pride Center opened the first in the nation playground at an LGBT center in 2015 no one realized they there might be a problem with an employee, who is a convicted sexual predator.
It’s unclear how the issue just now arose but Executive Director of the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Robert Boo, said the staff member has been terminated. That person worked at the center in some capacity since 2003 and was employed part-time since 2013.
“The individual was an elderly janitor who decades prior, had one reported incident of inappropriate behavior toward a child. He had served his time and wanted to repay his debt to society. In his years of service at The Pride Center, he did not raise any red flags,” Boo said. “During his time with us, we ensured that the employee was not on-site during any events involving children.”
Boo said he went above and beyond to make sure there were no were safety concerns.
“When I assumed the position of CEO of The Pride Center, I personally called his former parole officer, even though at that point he was no longer under observation. I have received a handful of inquiries from parents, but once we spoke, they all felt fully comfortable with the situation,” Boo said. “He was an elderly man who had served his time and wanted to repay his debt to society. If any valid concerns or issues had been raised, we would have taken immediate action.”
Boo said recently they learned about stipulations in place regarding playgrounds, which prompted the Center’s reevaluation of the employee.
Florida law states “If the victim was under age 18, a prohibition on working for pay or as a volunteer at any place where children regularly congregate, including, but not limited to, schools, child care facilities, parks, playgrounds, pet stores, libraries, zoos, theme parks, and malls.”
Boo said going forward the Center will “create a task force to review all practices, policies and procedures to ensure that we are in full compliance with all legal requirements and to ensure optimal safety of everyone who visits our center and utilizes our services.”
The employee in question has been on the sex offender registry since he was found guilty in 1997 on two counts: sexual battery on a victim less than 12 years old and lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 16.