By John Lynds
Following a hearing last Friday the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations chaired by At-Large Councilor Michael Flaherty released its recommendations to the Council for a vote regarding changes to the city residency requirement for city employees.
In January Mayor Martin Walsh filed recommendations to the committee that would look to end a decades-old culture at City Hall that, for the most part, ignores the requirement for city employees.
The Committee recommended that each officer appointed by the Mayor or elected by the City Council to a cabinet level or Department Head position would have six months following the date of his/her acceptance of office to become both a resident and registered voter of the City of Boston. The appointee would be required to be both a resident and a registered voter of the city during their term of office.
However, this would not apply to officers appointed to top positions prior to January 2016. The Mayor may also grant a waiver of the residency requirement and its related provisions. This waiver would need to be first approved by the Residency Compliance Commission.
“If the position to be filled requires a unique set of skills, which, without lifting the residency requirement, would render the position difficult to fill within a reasonable time,” wrote Flaherty in the Committee’s recommendations. “The petition to waive the residency requirement must be presented to the Residency Compliance Commission for ratification by a majority of its Commissioners. Such waiver may, at the discretion of the Mayor or his or her designee, be granted for the duration of the appointment or for such other limited duration, not to exceed 36 months, after which the officer shall become a resident of the City of Boston and shall not cease to be a resident of the City of Boston.”
Those trying to skirt or falsify residency would be fined $300.
The Committee also recommended that every person first employed by the City of Boston on or after July I, 1976, shall be a resident of the City of Boston, and shall not cease to be a resident of the City of Boston during his employment by the City.
“For the purposes of this ordinance, an employee shall be any person receiving monies from the City,” the recommendations stated. “All persons promoted by the City on or after July I, 1976, shall be, or within one year of such promotion, become a resident of the City.”
Failure to do so shall be determined to be a voluntary termination of employment.
The provisions of this section does not apply to any current sworn member of the command staff of the Boston Police Department or senior management appointee in the Boston Fire Department who immediately prior to such appointment was a member of previous collective bargaining agreements.
However, any sworn member of the command staff of the Boston Police Department appointed after January I, 2016 must also become both a resident and registered voter of the City of Boston within six months and continue to be a resident during their time of employment.
A waiver could also be filed like the one mentioned earlier and would again need approval from the Commission.
For all other city employees, upon taking employment with the City, and annually on March first thereafter, every person employed by the city must file with his or her Department head, or like officer, a certificate stating his or her name and place of residence. This must be accompanied with two proofs of residency. If a certificate is filed indicating a place or residence not within the City of Boston, or if no certificate is filed, the Department head or like officer would strike the name of the employee from the payroll and that person shall cease to be employed by the City,
“Since the City’s Residency Policy has evolved over decades it was necessary to re-examine and re-establish how the policy was applied across City Departments and quasi-city agencies,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “The updates within this Ordinance will provide for more consistency, while acknowledging that Boston is home to some of the best, brightest, and hardest-working talents in the workforce and provides a deep pool of stellar job candidates. To continue to deliver the·best public services to taxpayers we must maintain our City’s desirability as a place to live, work, educate and raise a family. That will be aided by my Administration’s commitment to’ housing. Our focus on housing coupled with this updated Residency Policy will allow Boston to better recruit and retain talented employees.” However, Walsh cautioned that “any waiver process pursued under my Administration will be exercised in a manner that is circumspect and used sparingly–with a preference always provided for Boston residents among equal candidates for jobs.