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Hearing Scheduled Regarding Public Officer Residency Requirement

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Hearing Scheduled Regarding Public Officer Residency Requirement

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Legislature, by unanimous vote, scheduled a public hearing for its next meeting December 3rd, 5:30 p.m., at County Legislature Chambers, to take comment on proposed amendment to Chapter 133 of the County Code, regarding the residency requirement for public officers, as provided for under NYS Public Officers Law.  (Legislators Dan Klein and Glenn Morey were excused.)  The proposed amendment under study would provide for waivers of the residency requirement in certain cases for non-elective public officer positions (such as department heads). 

As proposed, such a waiver could be granted in instances where the County has difficulty in hiring or 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 would remain 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.

While the vote to send the matter to public hearing was unanimous, there was much thoughtful discussion about the idea prior to the vote.  Some Legislators had questions about the process and means, standards, and consistency in granting waivers; whether there could be unintended consequences that would affect employment in general; concern about expanding the number of people travelling from outside the county and effect on climate change; and whether those from outside the county might not be as in-touch with county issues.  Chair Martha Robertson noted that 31% of the County’s workforce lives outside the county, and said she hopes that legislators can look carefully and think carefully about the issue as discussion moves forward.