The City Council directed the city attorney to look into whether Ashland's partial ban on public nudity can be expanded — but also whether there might be legal problems with the restrictions already in place.

The City Council directed the city attorney to look into whether Ashland's partial ban on public nudity can be expanded — but also whether there might be legal problems with the restrictions already in place.

In 2004, the city adopted an ordinance to ban the display of genitals in parks and downtown.

On Tuesday night, a council majority voted to have City Attorney Richard Appicello research legal issues about the ban and also whether it could be expanded to prohibit the display of genitals in buffer zones around schools.

Appicello will report his findings to the council during a future executive session. Executive sessions are closed to the public.

At least two councilors voiced concerns that Ashland's current partial ban on nudity may violate rights to freedom of expression.

Councilor Eric Navickas said the first amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech. Forms of expression that some people may find offensive include flag-burning, nudity or homosexual displays of affection, he said.

"I'm proud to live in a country and a city that supports free expression," Navickas said.

Navickas, along with Councilor Carol Voisin, was in the minority in voting against a motion to direct the city attorney to look at legal issues surrounding the partial nudity ban and a possible expansion of the ban.

Before he won a seat on the City Council, Navickas joined others who protested in the buff soon after the 2004 partial ban on nudity was adopted.

Councilors Greg Lemhouse, Kate Jackson, Russ Silbiger and David Chapman voted for the motion. But Chapman added that he voted for the motion because it calls for an evaluation of the current partial ban, which he feels may be unconstitutional.

Lemhouse, who works for the Medford Police Department and has investigated cases where children were sexually assaulted, said people shouldn't underestimate the impact of adults exposing themselves to children.

New nude man

Some local residents have been offended and even frightened by encounters with nude people in Ashland — even after the partial ban was put in place.

In 2008, Gennifer Moss, known as "the naked lady," caused a stir for going around town wearing only a G-string. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce denied her request to be in Ashland's Fourth of July parade when chamber officials learned she planned to parade topless.

Earlier this summer, Tony Cooper upset some residents for his nude strolls through Ashland, especially when he appeared naked near Walker Elementary School as children were walking home.

Both Moss and Cooper were from California and have reportedly left Ashland.

The Ashland Police Department received complaints last week of a man walking naked by Southern Oregon University. SOU security contacted the man, who was carrying an item of clothing and then put the clothing on, APD Chief Terry Holderness said.

The man, described as being in his 50s, was not Cooper, the man who upset children by Walker Elementary School, Holderness said.

Unless a person is displaying genitals downtown or in parks, there is little police can do except check that the person is not mentally disturbed or on drugs. Police officers inform naked people about Ashland's partial ban on nudity, he said.

The state of Oregon doesn't ban nudity or have a crime of indecent exposure. Instead, people can be arrested for public indecency, but that requires that sexual arousal be involved. Masturbating in public or having intercourse would qualify as public indecency, Holderness said.

In California, a person can be arrested for indecent exposure for exposing genitals, he said.

Ashland is unusual for cities in Oregon in having any law at all about nudity, Holderness said.

"Ashland is actually more restrictive than many — if not most — cities in Oregon," he said.

Residents upset

The City Council heard from several people who wanted Ashland to expand its ban on the exposure of genitals to areas around schools or the entire city.

Resident Chris Adams said Ashland's partial ban has been misconstrued by exhibitionists to allow and even encourage nudity outside prohibited areas.

One grandmother recounted how her granddaughter had been frightened when she saw Cooper with his genitals eposed when she was walking home from Walker Elementary School. The grandmother asked that her name not be used to protect the privacy of her grand-daughter.

The grandmother read a letter to the council from the girl that said seeing the man had made her feel gross inside and that the police had not been able to do anything about him.

"Will you please don't let him walk around naked because I wouldn't want him to scare my little sisters," the girl wrote in the letter.

Ashland School District employee Lori Davis, who helped calm the girl, said a police officer who came to the scene said there was nothing that could be done unless the man had been visibly aroused.

Davis said that would require children to be able to identify whether a person was visibly aroused before police could be called.

Resident Liza Christian said banning the display of genitals only downtown and in parks seemed to be a move to avoid offending tourists, rather than having a city-wide ban to protect the entire community.

People who appear naked in public take away the ability of parents to address sexuality with their children when they feel their children are mature enough to handle the topic in a healthy manner, resident Adam Pearson said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.