Tempers flare over residency requirement - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Tempers flare over residency requirement

The Memphis City Council's executive session was supposed to cover a resolution to fill a residency loophole for city employees.

But the meeting took an odd turn that had one council member and the city attorney fighting it out.

The executive session began with discussion of a new ordinance to reinstate the city employee residency requirement, but City Attorney Elbert Jefferson said it was too late.

"You cannot now go back and retroactively take it back from them," Jefferson said.

The confusion began back in 2003, when the council voted city employees must live in the city.  But, as the ordinance made its way through the city attorney's office, the wording somehow changed and the public voted on the wrong ordinance.
"That should be deemed illegal," council member Myron Lowery said. "It is wrong.  It was not the will of this body."

The 2003 ordinance puts a loophole on employee residency in the city charter.

"How did the council say one thing and another thing happened and was offered to the public and who did that?" council member Wanda Halbert demanded.

City Council Attorney Allan Wade said 50-year city employee and former city attorney Dorothy Osradker wrote the language.  Osradker recently died after retirement.

"Blame it on the dead guy," Halbert responded.

"I'm personally unaware if Miss Dorothy's participation in the drafting is true, and she's not here to defend herself," Jefferson added.

Lowery said the bigger issue is government trust. 

Council members decided the ordinance needs more discussion, and moved it to the council's personnel committee.

The council says the ordinance needs much more discussion, so it will be moved to the personnel committee.  The council is also considering a fee from employees who live outside the city.

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