New employees of Erie County government will have to live in the county after the Legislature on Thursday narrowly passed a residency law despite some concerns raised by the County Executive’s Office.
The Legislature approved the measure in a 6-5 vote.
“As I said when I first proposed it, I was surprised to see that we didn’t already have one in place,” said Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo, C-West Seneca, who introduced the legislation for approval over the objections of Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant.
“Eight other counties in Western New York have a very similar law. I believe it’s important for people to live in the community in which they work, especially if they’re collecting taxpayer dollars, and overall, I think it’s a good law,” Lorigo added.
The measure was approved mostly along party lines, with Legislator Thomas A. Loughran of Amherst, a Democrat, and Legislator Lynne M. Dixon of Hamburg, the only Independent in the Legislature, joining the four-member Republican caucus to pass it.
Grant unsuccessfully sought to keep the item in the Legislature’s Government Affairs Committee and off the floor for a vote. She said that while she supports a residency law, she is concerned that the law as proposed is flawed and could be open to legal challenges. She and other opponents objected that the law might usurp the county executive’s hiring authority, run afoul of civil service rules and leave the county in a bind if it can’t find a qualified county resident to fill a particular job.
“Why not wait another two weeks to get a more perfect law in place that could be supported by at least two-thirds of the Legislature?” Grant asked.
During the Legislature’s caucus earlier Thursday, County Attorney Michael Siragusa expressed some concerns that County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz had about the law as proposed by Lorigo and how it might affect appointments by the county executive.
Current employees who live outside the county will not be affected by the new law. Lorigo estimated that there are about 50 county employees who are not residents of Erie County.
“They’re grandfathered in,” Lorigo said.
“They have nothing to worry about. Really, it’s just new hires going forward,” he added.
Lorigo acknowledged that Poloncarz could veto the bill but said the county executive had indicated previously that he would sign the measure if it passed the Legislature. Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson said the county executive will not make any decision about the law until after holding a public hearing.