OSWEGO, NY – At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Planning and Development Committee, City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli proposed modification to the charter with respect to city officers and employees and the residency requirements for such officers and employees.
The modification would add a Section I, which authorizes the mayor to waive the residency requirements for an officer or employee when the strict adherence to the residency requirements will result in the loss of an officer or employee or the inability to fill a position of employment by the most qualified candidate regardless of residency or domicile.
After a lengthy debate and a brief recess, the committee decided to hold a public hearing regarding the possible repeal of the charter change made last year.
Early last year, Council President Shawn Walker lead the charge to change the charter requiring city employees to live within the city, Mayor William Barlow said.
“It’s difficult, going through the interview process, in clear conscious to support this,” the mayor said Tuesday. “Because, if I have three candidates who I have to interview, I don’t understand why I have to settle for second best because of where somebody sleeps at night.”
The city should be looking to hire the best, the sharpest and most talented employees it can “no matter where they live,” he added.
“This law will sooner or later prevent the mayor from doing that,” he explained.
He said he worked with the city attorney on the proposed amendment; but what he’d prefer to do, he said, “is repealing the law that took place last year.”
As a matter of principle, “if you work here, you should live here and pay taxes here,” Councilor John Gosek said.
But, at the same time, he said he can see how the law currently on the books might hamstring the mayor in the hiring process.
He’d prefer to hire someone from Oswego, but understands the need to be able to hire the best candidate, he added.
Councilor Pat McLaughlin agreed. He said he’d like to rescind or repeal the law so the mayor’s hands wouldn’t be tied during the hiring process.
“You need to have some latitude. In theory I believe that we should try to hire local residents for our jobs. But in practicality the mayor, whether it’s this mayor or future mayor needs some type of help to hire the best people for the job,” Councilor Robert Corradino said.
The city should not be in the position where it has to hire somebody just because they live in the city, resident Bruce Holmes said. Councilors should give the mayor the authority to hire the best person, he said.
“Pick the person that is best qualified for the job,” he said. “In my opinion, the best thing is to repeal the law as it is right now.”
“I’d totally like to blast the whole thing right out of there; start from scratch and make it fair,” McLaughlin added.
“If you work here, you should live here,” Walker said. “People paying the taxes are paying your salary.”
“I’m certainly in favor of a total revamp,” Councilor Eric VanBuren said. “We could expand the borders to say the school district.”
“At this point, instead of continually changing it from administration to administration or year to year, it’s time to kick this one to the curb and get it done,” McLaughlin said.
Following a short recess, the committee reconvened and Gosek proposed changing Caraccioli’s amendment to repeal the residency requirement as it is set forth in the city charter currently in Article 2, Section C2-01.
That would be Local Law No. 1 of 2016.
It was seconded by Walker and sent to the full council for consideration.
If approved by the council, a public hearing on the proposed charter change will be held Feb. 8 at 7:10 p.m. in the Council Chambers.