Council Probes Residency Requirements
The issue came up as 15 employees, including city homeowners, were laid off last month, while most top administrators live out of town.
In a discussion at the March 1 agenda-fixing session, City Administrator Bibi Taylor said the city is not in compliance with the ordinance, but Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson said employees could take the position that their address was known when they were hired and the residency requirement was not invoked.
According to the ordinance, the "hiring authority" is supposed to enforce the rule. A list of all employees and their hometowns has been compiled, but at this point some have been "grandfathered" due to being hired before 2002 amendments to the ordinance. Police and fire personnel are exempt from the requirement by state law. Sorting out the situations of other employees, Williamson said, will "take some time to come up with a crystal-clear picture."
In the first term of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs that began in 2006, many cabinet members received waivers of the residency requirement, with City Council approval. The only one residing in Plainfield in 2006 was former City Administrator Norton Bonaparte, who served as director of Administration, Finance, Health & Social Services in the new mayor's administration until March 2006, when he left to become the first city manager of Topeka, Kans.
Over four years, no other department heads moved to Plainfield.
For the mayor's second term that began Jan. 1, top administrators reside in Essex, Monmouth and Morris counties.
Councilman Adrian Mapp said the 2002 amendments targeted an administrator who lived in Scotch Plains and he was the only council member who voted "no," because an individual was being singled out. Mapp asked Personnel Director Karen Dabney to have the city's employee manual updated to reflect the residency requirement.
Councilman Rashid Burney asked whether the administration will now enforce it, but Robinson-Briggs said it has to be reviewed.