Friday, March 12, 2010

Council Probes Residency Requirements

A residency requirement on the books calls for employees to live in the city or move here within a year of being hired, but it has not been enforced, officials admitted.

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.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, our governing body is not interested in looking at the talented stock of qualified people in our community.This started blatantly with the McWilliams Administration and continues today.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could argue that it would be a cruel and unusual punishment to force an otherwise financially stable person to purchase a house in Plainfield.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 3:06- I think Councilwoman McWilliams is very much interested in all of Plainfield, the talented, and everyone else too. If your criticism refers to the layoff plan, you need to really back up a step.

Consider first the responsible action taken by the Council to reduce the size of the Administration's budget. That one was out of control, requiring nearly a 10% tax increase this year, and offered by the Mayor with a projection of a 50% tax hike over 5 years. The size of the pie was reduced, and layoffs resulted because this was the best this Administration could come up with.

It could/should have acted on this budget sooner to save money. It could have found another method, or been successful negotiating concessions with the unions as an alternative to layoffs. The Robinson-Briggs Administration could have taken pro-active steps to reduce the size of the workforce through attrition over the years. But it didn't do that either. It waited and waited until layoff were the only option. If the Council said 'no' to this layoff plan, more time would go by, and there would be another layoff plan even more drastic down the road. Or we could just let it all fester like a sore of do-nothingness.

So give McWilliams some credit for recognizing the problem and leading the Council to taking action to stem the tide. I am certain she is working diligently to impress upon the Mayor the need get our act together. But because that 'act' is more the Mayor's doing (she is the CEO so to speak), we will have to wait and see. That's where you really ought to direct your displeasure.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Randy Schaeffer said...

Are municipal or state residency requirements constitutional?

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randy - Only when the politicians want it to be

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks being a resident makes them more dedicated, how come when I drive over 20 miles to get to work in a snow I find that someone that lives a few blocks away from City Hall is calling in saying they cannot get out of their driveway and won't be in.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get over it already the smart ones leave dodge asap as long as you boobs are incharge plainfield is done fo. the clueless council the useless mayor and massage me martin need to go

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was hired I was given an employee handbook and on page 22 it states the same language as do the Municipal Ordinance and Article 19. Just to say we are with no excuse and if personnel was responsible to assure on an annual basis that the employees reside (live) in Plainfield, perhaps we should find out why they weren't doing their jobs. However one might think this is petty, but if they lived in Plainfield they would share in tax issues. Also what does this say of our Mayor who doesn't own property in Plainfield, but choose to live with her mother, perhaps that's why she gives her cabinet members waivers. Funny though how her ex-administrator was willing to move to Monclair, I guess Monclairs mayor cares about his City. Let's demand she stop making excuses for her cabinet and really focus on building Plainfield and honoring the rules of this city.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Randy Schaeffer said...

I am not sure I understand the rationale for residency requirements.

Plainfield's best interests are supposed to be represented by our elected officials. Those elected officials in turn are supposed to hire the most capable professionals to carry out the agenda of the elected officials.

I'm not sure that residency guarantees anything. What's most important is the competence of both elected officials and the people hired by those elected officials to carry out the public agenda.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are confusing two issues - the pool of candidates and the pool of employees. The City can cast a wide net to find the most competent individuals available to fit the position. However, once that individual is found, then that individual should be required to reside in Plainfield. Should they choose not to, then so be it. As I see it, if they do not reside here, they are not sharing in the tax burden, community, problems, etc. of the City, and as such, they do not have as much of a vested interest as those who do.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Rashy, well said!!!

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you kinding me the mayor lived out of town until her election bid the first time

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having worked for the City and moving on, I have worked with employees that are residents and non-residents. Here are some of my observations:

RESIDENT: Very rarely arrives to work early. Usually arrives on the dot or a few minutes late.
NON-RESIDENT: Usually early for work becuase they allow ample time for whatever commute they have.

RESIDENT: Often goes home for lunch, returns late. Or does some shopping and returns late.
NON-RESIDENT: Frequently brown bags and eats at desk. Works a good part of their lunch hour.

RESIDENT: Thinks that working for the City entitles them with discounts in stores.
NON-RESIDENT: Embarrassed to admit they work for the City.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be some confusion in one of these comments between the late former mayor Albert McWilliams and Councilwoman Annie McWilliams.

6:41 PM  

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