MONTPELIER -- A new review of Vermont's sex offender registry found critical errors in nearly 11 percent of offender records, calling into question the reliability of the registry, state Auditor Doug Hoffer said Wednesday.
The audit found critical errors in 253 of the 2,340 records in the registry.
"The registry is meant to provide accurate information to the public and protect the rights of people in the system. Presently, the system doesn't appear to be doing this as well as it should," Hoffer said.
The sex offender registry is managed by the Department of Public Safety's Vermont Crime Information Center. The information is provided by the Department of Corrections, the courts and offenders.
The state has taken action to improve the registry since a 2010 audit found what the auditor's office described as "sizeable errors," but Hoffer said progress has been mixed.
A major change was the implementation of a new information technology system, called OffenderWatch, which has features such as edits, drop-down menus and an audit trail, the audit said.
But Hoffer said the state has not fully put in place a recommendation to track the treatment status of sex offenders who are no longer under state supervision.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said in a written response to the audit on July 9 that he would direct the Vermont Crime Information Center to develop a process to identify and track treatment of offenders no longer under Corrections Department supervision and implement recommendations in the previous audit related to performance standards for timely entry of data.
"We do feel like there's a significant amount of improvement in the data contained within the registry since 2010," said Jeffrey Wallin, director of the center.
The Legislature required the 2010 audit to see whether the registry was reliable and current before it is expanded as part of a law passed following the 2008 rape and murder of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett in Randolph, who was killed by her uncle, a sex offender. The registry has not been expanded; it must first pass the audit, Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito said.
The critical errors pertained to whether an offender was properly registered or properly posted to the online registry, the audit said. About 70 percent of the errors were related to the length of the registration, the audit said. In Vermont, offenders must be registered for 10 years after supervision for a sex crime has ended or in some instances for life.
The registration time frame problem was a known technical issue that was being worked on, said Wallin.
Hoffer recommended that a working group formed to address problems raised in the 2010 audit reconvene to tackle the remaining issues. The Department of Public Safety supports that recommendation.