Residency issue to go to Ohio Supreme Court

Dayton employees will be watching this case as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs in on the rights of cities to establish “home rule”- or the rights of the State to overturn legislation enacted by popular vote. The issue is if cities can require employees to live within the city limits. Dayton passed and reaffirmed this rule at the ballot box much to the dismay of the police and fire unions who claim it limits their “freedom.”

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Cleveland will get a chance after all to argue in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of its residency requirement for employees.

The court on Friday allowed the city to join the city of Lima on Tuesday when the court will hear oral arguments on a lawsuit questioning whether a state law that trumps local residency laws is unconstitutional.

The court will hear two separate cases, the other brought by the city of Akron, that challenge the state law. Two separate state appeals courts have already sided with the cities.

The cases have slightly different approaches but the same bottom line: the claim that a state law striking down local residency rules for safety employees, like police officers, violates the state’s home rule provision.

While the Lima case largely centers on a home rule argument, the Akron case also makes the argument that banning residency rules has serious negative consequences for public policy.

The cases also differ in that Lima’s residency rule was adopted by its city council in 2000, while the Akron rule was adopted by popular vote in 1978 and upheld by voters in 1995….

In 2006, the state legislature passed a bill that eventually became law in May of that year that said municipalities could not require their employees to reside in a specific area as a condition of their employment.

via Cleveland will get to argue Ohio Supreme Court for residency requirement – Metro – cleveland.com.

While repealing this rule would have less impact now than when it was passed and the city had a much larger workforce, the reality is- most of these employees have already segregated themselves into Forest Ridge and Quail Hollow where they live in the City of Dayton, but are within the Huber Heights or Riverside School District. They would still pay the 2.25% city income tax, but there would be a drastic readjustment of home values in these areas. We’d also lose income taxes from spouses who may work in other municipalities.

Residency is a political football- constantly an issue with the more conservative police and fire unions, while mostly ignored by the more blue collar and democratic leaning AFSCME. Since the issue only affects about 2,300 employees, it’s not enough to sway any candidate over to be against it- when it’s always passed by a strong majority of the voters.

From a PR standpoint, and a hiring standpoint, it may cost us some better candidates. However, other practices like not accepting lateral transfers from other police or fire departments is actually hurting much more- and this is an issue the unions won’t budge on.

No matter how the Ohio Supreme Court rules, this will end up going to the US Supreme Court, so no one should be holding their breath. Victor Pate, the city electrician who tested the law immediately, is happily living and working in Florida. It will be a long time before he gets an answer on this- and his opportunity to collect money from the city for unlawful termination if the cities lose.

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13 Responses

  1. Mark Paxson January 18, 2009 / 9:50 am
    Dave, the Ohio Supreme Court will be the final arbiter of this matter. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that City residency laws are solely a state issue to be determined by the state. No matter the outcome, the Supreme Court will refuse to hear an appeal.

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  2. David Esrati January 18, 2009 / 12:01 pm
    Mark- thanks for the heads up. Although I’ve paid a lot of lawyers to fight the city, I certainly am not one.

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  3. J. R. Locke January 19, 2009 / 7:57 pm
    When this first came up and reported on this some dude sent me numerous emails, vicious emails about this topic. He was very passionate against this….

    I believe strongly that locality = understanding which yields better efficiency with their job. For most of the professions affected by this I think it is imperative that these residency laws be retained.

    In a broader sense what ever happened to taking pride in the community you work and live in? Why would the public officials want to live in a place far away from their work? Is it a safety issue with police officers?

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  4. Gary January 20, 2009 / 12:50 am
    David,
    The problem you and I are going to face regarding this issue is that the city charter reads that employees must physically reside in the city. Regardless of how you or I truely feel, we are going to have to swear to uphold the city charter. Should we be elected of course.

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  5. Larkin January 20, 2009 / 5:41 pm
    I agree with J.R., if you work in the city, you should live in the city. (Not just for this city, for all cities.) Who wants to deal with city workers (of any stripe) who are so contemptuous (or afraid or unimaginative) about Dayton that they can’t bear to live here? If they want to live in the suburbs, then let them find a job there too.

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  6. Gene January 20, 2009 / 5:46 pm
    Not with the schools they offer………

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  7. Larkin January 21, 2009 / 1:24 pm
    Ha ha, Gene. Two Dayton high schools are measurably superior to every high school in every Dayton suburb with the exception of Oakwood and Centerville. And if the city workers don’t like the calibre of the schools, then perhaps they will see the benefits in working to improve them.

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  8. former city employee March 28, 2009 / 12:23 am
    As someone who left the city for this very reason, I feel I have authority to speak on this. First of all, I cannot underscore enough how far reaching the residency rule is. It affects every aspect of ones life and that of their family. By accepting the job one is also accepting higher crime rates, horrendous public schools, higher taxes and overpriced housing. I “violated” the rule for years and was never caught, but I lived like a convict on the run. I was always looking over my shoulder and watching who was following me to and from work. If anyone does not know, the city pays tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to a private security company to follow employees suspected of violating the residency rule. Ask folks like Victor Pate, Mark Paxson, Annette Brown, and Over the years the city has spent literally millions of dollars trying to fire it’s own employees.

    I have heard all of the arguments from the pro-city crowd, the “we must uphold the city charter” crowd, and the “you should want to live here” crowd, and to that I say what happened to freedom? Yes, I know “you knew the rules when you took the job”, but lives change over the course of a 25-30 year career. I have expressed my freedom, and that was to take my years of experience and all of my city-paid-for-training with me to a city that values the individual worker. Now my spot must be filled by a new employee, who needs thousands of dollars in training, and is more than likely a less qualified employee. Common sense dictates that it is cheaper to keep one employee for a career than to have to replace that person time and time again.

    I find it ironic that a city controlled by democrats who claim to fight for freedoms and equality for all, limit freedom for their own employees. Dayton also has a rule that you cannot work for another municipality, even if it benefits them. Firefighters and police officers could work at another dept. part-time on their days off for extra money meanwile gaining valuable experience that they can bring back to their full-time job. Instead of seeing the benefits of this, the city acts like they own you. This problem goes far beyond residency, it is the overall attitude of the city. They act as if you are doing them a favor by working for them, and that you owe them everything. I hate to sound like a disgruntled employee, but i guess I am.

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  9. Hans Shlepper November 9, 2010 / 9:29 pm
    So interesting to see that Mr. Pate did not pass on his vocation to his son (Victor Jr) with any sense od dedication. Victor Jr now sits in jail for robbery while father whom has robbed (without a gun) for years the city of Dayton. Too bad both of them aren;t behind bars.

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  10. David Esrati November 10, 2010 / 2:12 pm

    @Hans- Victor Jr. spent a weekend in jail and was released without charges.

    His father won his lawsuit- and was correct in following the law and questioning authority.

    If you want to know who should be behind bars- it’s Rhine and Nan who kept pushing residency even though it had been ruled illegal.

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