A Toledo man convicted years ago of having sex with a 16-year-old former student is permitted to operate his business in uptown Maumee, despite its proximity to a school, and despite objections some residents have raised on social media.
John "Mitch" Balonek owns NeverMore Used Bookstore at 2856 W. Sylvania Ave. in West Toledo, and opened a second location in November at 302 Conant St. in Maumee. He was convicted in 2006 on one count of felony sexual battery after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a female student while teaching at Scott High School.
Balonek was sentenced to three years in prison in May, 2006. He was granted early release Jan. 23, 2007, and registered as a sex offender, but only for 10 years.
City Councilman Scott Noonan was made aware of the situation by a concerned citizen on Facebook, who remembered the man's name and connection with the NeverMore book stores. Multiple people voiced their opinions and concerns on social media.
"Someone tagged me and asked if I knew anything about this," Mr. Noonan said. "I looked at it and was like, 'Oh boy.' With that information, I contacted the city administration and asked if they knew about it."
Mr. Noonan said Law Director Beth Tischler and Police Chief James MacDonald investigated further. Ms. Tischler thoroughly searched court records and databases, and concluded Balonek was no longer a registered sex offender.
The Maumee store is a block away from St. Joseph Catholic School.
"I also checked into any registration or probation violations, and there were none," Ms. Tischler said. "I saw nothing that would have caused his registration to not expire. There's no legal impediment to him working or owning something in that proximity to the school."
Balonek bemoaned the social media chatter, saying "it's all lies and a fabrication from a bunch of misinformed people." He declined further comment.
Rules for registering as a sex offender were slightly different at the time of Balonek's sentencing. Those guilty of sex crimes were given a clinical assessment to determine classification. Balonek was considered a sexually oriented offender, the lowest classification at the time.
The Adam Walsh Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in July, 2006. The Act made sex offender classification offense-specific, and the length of time spent on the registry was also adjusted.
"Some people were concerned," Ms. Tischler said. "It was still recent enough where people could remember he was convicted of a sexually oriented crime. Most of them presumed he shouldn't be within 500 feet of those schools, but he is not restricted."
Contact Jay Skebba at firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-376-9414, or on Twitter @JaySkebbaBlade.