Court upholds city law


An appellate court sided a third time with cities in their battle to enforce laws requiring municipal employees to live in the cities for which they work.

Ohio's 6th District Court of Appeals in Toledo struck down a 2006 state law prohibiting cities from imposing a residency requirement as a condition of employment.

The appellate court called the state law "an obvious attempt to circumvent constitutional municipal home rule authority."

The 2-1 decision was released yesterday. It was a victory for Toledo, which has been sued by employees who have been disciplined for not living within the city limits.

The city of Oregon was listed as a party in the lawsuit.

The ruling followed a similar decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Lima and the 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron. Those decisions have been appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

"We're very pleased with the ruling and, obviously, we think it's correct," Toledo Law Director John Madigan said.

He added that the city likely will not take immediate action against any employee living outside the city, but will be looking at new cases that have come up.

The decision applies to the eight counties in the 6th District's jurisdiction: Erie, Fulton, Huron, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood.

The Toledo court ruled that the state law prohibiting residency requirements "does not pertain to the protection of employees' welfare from adverse wages, hours, or working conditions," but instead "pertains to 'off-duty' residential location preferences."

The court also noted that the Toledo charter allows for residency waivers in certain situations.

The decision, written by Judge Thomas Osowik with Judge William Skow concurring, reverses a Lucas County Common Pleas

Court ruling in July that found the law constitutional.

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Arlene Singer said that "all cities and communities cannot offer their employees the necessary and desired quality of life services and conditions."

Assistant Attorney General Pearl Chin said that the state has appealed two of the appellate cases to the Supreme Court and likely will do the same with the recent decision.

She said the high court has not yet decided whether it will hear the issue.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said he was disappointed in the decision.

He said the court didn't address the union's main safety concern that officers must live within the community where they arrest people.

The union and Toledo Firefighters Local 92 filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the state law.

"It's ultimately going to be heard by the state's Supreme Court. We'll have to wait for a decision and once that decision is made, we'll know the law," Mr. Wagner said.

The city conducts an annual review to determine where employees live. Excluding police officers and firefighters - whose addresses are not public - about 180 out of 2,900 city employees have addresses outside of Toledo.

Statewide, 125 cities and 13 villages had some sort of residency requirement at the time the state law was passed.