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Salinas residents raising concerns over church volunteer

Salinas residents raising concerns over church volunteer
KION
Salinas residents raising concerns over church volunteer

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Families in Salinas are raising concerns over a local church volunteer who is a registered sex offender.

Robert James Herman served time in prison almost 30 years ago when he was convicted of a couple sex offenses. However, the pastor of First United Methodist Church in Salinas is defending Herman, saying he has turned his life around.

But one grandparent and other concerned neighbors say they worry about the children who come for visits at the church. The church pastor, Steve Lundin, tells KION the parents have nothing to worry about since Herman does not work with children. Lundin also says children do not go onto church premises without their parents.

"Why would a church allow a registered sex offender to work here?" said Denise Barrett, a concerned Salinas grandparent.

Barrett lives nearby the First United Methodist Church. Despite the good work the church does in this part of town, Barrett and others have concerns over the homeless, drugs and violence some believe the church attracts.

Barrett is also concerned about Herman, who the church's pastor confirms is a registered sex offender.

"I just fear for the kids. I have a four year old granddaughter," said Barrett.

KION looked into Herman's records on California's Megan's Law website, which tracks sex offenders in the state. We found the 67-year-old was convicted in 1995 on two counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age and assault with intent to commit a specified sex offense.

Herman was released from prison in 2006, according to the state website.

The church says they knew about Herman's past before they him him on, saying he served his prison sentence and was paroled, meaning the state believes he was ready to re-integrate back into society.

Pastor Lundin also sent us a statement through email saying: "He does not work with children and, as with all our volunteers, he does not work alone. He is under the direction of our Program Manager. Mr. Herman makes a great effort to give back to society and is considered a role model and leader by his fellow volunteers."

Friends of Herman's at the church are also defending him, saying his past crimes do not define who he is today.

"He has turned his life around, 1000 percent," said Curtis Carusi.

But families here are not convinced.

"I'm not saying close the whole dang thing down, but vet it better to keep the sex offenders away from the kids. Because what happens if a kid does get hurt, then what?" said Barrett.

KION did try and reach out to Herman himself through the pastor. But Herman did not want to speak with us directly. Pastor Lundin says Herman does not need to defend himself as there are no charges against him.

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Josh Kristianto

Josh Kristianto is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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