Proposed ordinance gives new city hires 180 days to move

New city hires would have 180 days to become residents of Orleans Parish under a proposed ordinance introduced Thursday by City Council President Stacy Head.

The “city domicile ordinance” reinstates a longtime rule that employees of the city of New Orleans must live here. The policy was lifted after Hurricane Katrina. It began again Jan. 1, and new employees have three months to move to the city once their employment begins. The proposed ordinance would double that grace period.

The City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee will review the ordinance before it goes to the full council for a vote. The issue is a controversial one in that opponents of the residency law say it limits the pool of candidates and, in turn, the quality of hires for jobs in the city.

The proposed legislation requires that any new hire must be domiciled in Orleans Parish, meaning his or her home should be where the person is registered to vote and “sleeps, takes his meals, has established his household, and surrounds himself with his family and the comforts of home.”

Employees, both appointed and those hired by the Civil Service Commission, hired before Jan. 1 are not required to move to the city, according to the ordinance.

Those who were hired before Jan. 1 and live outside of Orleans Parish will not be ineligible for promotions or transfers.

Beside regular City Hall employees and New Orleans police officers and firefighters, the ordinance also sets residency rules for employees of the Sewerage & Water Board, the New Orleans Aviation Board, Public Belt Railroad Commission, Audubon Park Commission and any public agencies that use civil service hires.

Aviation Board employees, who work at Armstrong International Airport, would not be required to live in New Orleans if their home is closer to the airport than to the city.

The ordinance allows for the city’s chief administrative officer to make some exceptions to the rule “for good cause” on a case-by-case basis.

Under the proposed ordinance, police and fire recruits would face a special policy.

Right now they must move to the city before they finish their training, meaning they are not ensured a job. Head’s ordinance would give them the 180-day grace period to move after they finish training and are employed.

Like the existing city ordinance regarding domicile, the proposed legislation includes disciplinary actions including dismissal for anyone who knowingly fails to comply with the law.