VOL. 128 | NO. 63 | Monday, April 1, 2013
Commission to Consider Residency Ballot Item
By Bill Dries
Shelby County Commissioners take a final vote Monday, April 1, on a referendum ordinance that would do away with county government’s residency requirement for employment.
The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.
The ordinance up for third and final reading would put an item to county voters on the August 2014 ballot that would amend the Shelby County Home Rule Charter.
The charter, approved by voters in 1986, requires Shelby County government employees to live within Shelby County and the provision applies to Shelby County Schools teachers and school system employees.
It became an issue for the commission with the coming merger of county schools and Memphis City Schools in August. Memphis City Schools has no residency requirement. But the county residency requirement would apply because in the merger Memphis City Schools becomes part of Shelby County Schools.
Earlier in March, the commission voted to grandfather in all current Memphis City Schools employees who live outside Shelby County. But the residency requirement would apply to teachers and other consolidated school district employees hired after the merger.
The debate on how the charter requirement affects the schools merger prompted a larger debate about the residency requirement in general. And the commission’s divide on the larger issue is more pronounced.
The referendum ordinance failed on the second of three readings earlier this month.
Some commissioners who said it was unfair to apply the residency requirement to city school teachers who had not been required to live within the county are adamant that county employees should have to live in the county.
Others on the commission argue that county government’s role should not include telling employees where they have to live.
The referendum item only drew three “yes” votes out of seven commissioners present Wednesday in committee sessions.
Commissioner Terry Roland, the sponsor of the ordinance, hinted that he expects the measure will fail on third reading but also indicated he is seeking legislation in Nashville that would forbid any local government from having a residency requirement.
“I’ve taken care of it other ways,” he said. “We’re going to do a football play. We’re going to do the end around.”
Commissioners will also appoint a Probate Court judge Monday to replace the retiring Judge Robert Benham in Division 1 of the court.
Those who have applied for the appointment are former Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton, David Dunlap, Kathleen N. Gomes, Danny Kail, state Sen. Jim Kyle, Michael Richards and Karen Wilson Tyler.
Also on the agenda is a $238,080 contract with Chris Hill Construction Co. for repairing the Mudville Road bridge over Big Creek in northern Shelby County and a transfer of the county’s part ownership of the old Whitehaven Public Library building at 4122 Barton Drive to the city of Memphis.
Also added to the agenda in Wednesday committee sessions was a resolution by Commissioner Wyatt Bunker asking the Tennessee legislature to apply the state open meetings law to itself as well as the local legislative bodies like the commission and Memphis City Council that the state law now currently applies to.
Bunker’s resolution comes after the failure of a bill in Nashville earlier this month that would have allowed members of local legislative bodies to meet privately as long as they did not have a quorum present. The current law says any deliberation or discussion of public business must be open if it involves two or more members, unless it is a meeting with attorneys to discuss pending or ongoing litigation. In that case, the elected officials can ask questions but cannot deliberate on a decision.