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Legislature Modifies Public Officer Residency Requirement

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Legislature Modifies Public Officer Residency Requirement

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Legislature approved a new Local Law that amends Chapter 133 of the County Code to modify the residency requirement for public officers, as provided for under NYS Public Officers Law.  After considerable discussion, the vote was 9-5, with Legislators Amanda Champion, Anne Koreman, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Henry Granison, and Dan Klein voting no.   A public hearing on the proposed change was held earlier this month (no comments were received.)  The amendment provides for waivers of the residency requirement in certain cases for non-elective public officer positions, such as department heads.

The waiver may be granted in instances where the County has difficulty in hiring of promoting the most qualified person due to the residency requirement or no qualified resident has applied, and also in the case of a current employee who moves outside the county for demonstrated good cause.  The position of County Administrator remains subject to the public officer residency requirement. Public officer positions of Probation Officer are exempt under the law, and positions of Deputy Sheriff, Assistant District Attorney and Corrections Officer in Tompkins County are exempt from by prior Legislature action.

During discussion, several Legislators raised concerns—among them, Legislator Klein stated department heads are high-paying positions who have a big impact on decisions and should also be bound by them.  Legislator McBean-Clairborne said she was troubled that, at a time when some people are being pushed out of the center of the county to outlying areas due to the cost of housing that we should not be requiring that department heads reside in the county.  Administrator Jason Molino noted that around eight current department deputies live outside the County and lack of the provision for a potential waiver would prevent their opportunity to seek to advance to a department head position.

Chair Martha Robertson said, “For me it’s not so much that someone cannot afford to move into TC….it is that, for someone within reasonable commuting time, many would consider a position in TC, but do not want to uproot their family…For me this is a matter for looking for excellent people for our departments…I think this is worth a try.”

Saying that she supports local people doing local jobs, Legislator Shawna Black advanced an amendment, which was accepted, that a review of this change take place in two years, by December 2021, to examine how many waivers have been granted and how the program is working.