Council weighs residency requirement for municipal officers, department heads

Newburgh’s City Council is weighing a local law requiring that all newly hired city officers and department heads live in the city at the time of hire or relocate their residence to the city within a certain time period.

At their Thursday work session, members of the Council discussed a proposed local law drafted by the Corporation Counsel’s office.

Officer positions covered would include city manager, commissioners, corporation counsel and the fire and police chiefs. The law would take effect Jan. 1, and also require that those it covers remain city residents during their employment. If not they will be deemed to have “voluntarily resigned.”

If the requirement would hinder the filling of a position, the law’s provisions allow for a 90-day grace period for an out-of-city resident to move to Newburgh. The waiver could be extended for two months under certain circumstances.

“This is coming on the heels of a lot of community discussions around just encouraging and having our employees live, and work and play here in this area,” Councilwoman Karen Mejia said. “I’m excited about it.”

Councilwoman Gay Lee was less excited.

She described as “too loose” what had initially been a 120-day grace period. Combined with the a possible two-month extension, someone hired from outside the city could have up to six months to relocate.

The Council agreed to lower the grace period to 90 days. But Lee thinks the long-discussed issue of municipal employees living outside Newburgh reflects longstanding practice in which qualified city residents have been bypassed by those who make hiring decisions.

“You may not think that happens, but if you look around City Hall, it clearly happens,” she said.

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