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March 2013 Column - Local law would create county employee residency requirement


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This week I introduced a local law that would require county employees reside in Erie County. While there are several benefits to such a requirement, I believe that most importantly, policymakers should be stakeholders.

 

Taxpayers who fund employee salaries deserve a workforce that has a personal interest in the success of this county. That personal interest is derived and maintained by the fact that our employees live here and rely on the same services they are tasked with providing.

 

There are several key issues included in the proposed local law that are important to understand. First, current employees who do not reside in Erie County will not be forced to move nor lose their jobs. A clause in the law states those employees will be grandfathered in. Upon approval of the law, applicants would have to reside in Erie County to accept a job with the county.

 

There is some question as to whether this requirement would impede the ability to adequately fill a vacancy. We are fortunate to have many qualified employees serving the residents of Erie County and draw a large response when openings are posted. In some cases, the position requires a specially trained individual and that may require some recruitment outside of Erie County’s borders. Highly skilled positions, such as mental health experts, crime scene investigators, attorneys and medical examiners, as well as others, will receive special consideration if a qualified applicant from Erie County is not found. I believe that, in those circumstances, exceptions may need to be made in the interest of attracting the most qualified person for a job. The law would allow that a request be made to the legislature to temporarily suspend the law for that one hire, as long as that request comes with a signed statement from the Commissioner of Personnel that affirms that it is necessary to attract the most qualified candidate. 

 

We want to encourage local employment when possible, but don’t want to short-change the public on expertise when it comes to providing them the best service possible.

 

If implemented, the law would be taken very seriously. Employees found to be in violation of the law will be terminated and ineligible from county employment for a period of five years. After that time has passed, if they can prove residency has been established, they will be allowed to apply for a position.

 

Before the Legislature considers this proposed local law, members will meet in committee to fully vet the issue. Procedure also requires that the public be allowed an opportunity to comment on the issue before the Legislature votes. The dates of the committee meeting and public hearing will be set at a later date and I will update my website to keep the community abreast.

 

I was surprised to learn that the county did not have a residency requirement and believe that anyone employed by county taxpayers should also be paying county taxes and thus have a vested interest in the county’s wellbeing and future. I encourage my colleagues to consider this law and invite you to contact me with your comments and questions. Please call my Legislative Office at 858-8922 or email joseph.lorigo@erie.gov