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Residency requirements for Cincinnati officials could be changing

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The director of the Metropolitan Sewer District will not get an exemption from the city's requirement that he live within Cincinnati city limits.  

But Tony Parrott and other city department directors could still escape the rule.  The full Council will vote on the issue Wednesday.

The new policy would only ask the city manager, assistant city managers, police chief and city solicitor to live in the city.  All other department director currently listed in the administrative code would be removed.

Vice Mayor David Mann said he feels like he has spent his entire public career dealing with residency rules.

“If I were king, every city employee would be required to be a resident of the city of Cincinnati,” Mann said.  “There’s so many reasons why that’s good public policy.”

But Mann admitted various events and circumstances prevent that.

“Including lost arbitrations where I was the star witness on the other side, court proceedings and legislation,” Mann said.  “The universe that we can require to live in the city is about 12 people.”

Mann first proposed dropping the residency requirement for everyone but the city manager.  But he was persuaded to add the other four positions.  

The issue is being debated now because the city's Metropolitan Sewer District director does not live in the city as the current administrative code requires.  

Tony Parrott has never lived in the city; and interim city manager Scott Stiles disciplined him in June for misrepresenting where he lives on city documents.  Parrott lost 40 hours of vacation time and was given six months to move into the city.  That time expired last month; and new city manager Harry Black gave him a 45 day extension and also asked Council to exempt Parrott from the residency requirement.  A council committee Tuesday rejected that proposal.

Council Member Wendell Young cast one of the votes against the exemption for Parrott.

“That individual will come and will ask us to increase rates, will ask us to do a number of different things,” Young said.  “And then if not required to live in the city, can go and live wherever they live and not be affected by any of the decision we’re being asked to make.  I don’t feel like that’s fair.”

However Council Member Christopher Smitherman would have supported the exemption.

“I stand with you feeling very strongly about residency,” Smitherman said.  “I just think in this case, because of the nature of this particular department that if we were going to make an exception, this would be the department to do so.”

There is also a disagreement on how many council votes it takes to change the residency requirement.  

City solicitor Paula Boggs Muething says it's a simple majority of five votes.  But Council Member Kevin Flynn says he can make the argument the city charter requires seven votes.  

If the residency change is approved with less than seven votes, it is possible a person or group could challenge the issue in court.  

It is also unclear what action Parrott will take if the full Council rejects changing the residency requirements.  He told Black in December he does not intend to move for personal reasons, but he does want to remain MSD Director.  Parrott said at the time he had received verbal assurances from past city leaders that his living arrangements were satisfactory.