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City residency law in violation of California constitution

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City residency law in violation of California constitution

Pinkerton

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POSTED October 19, 2009 3:30 a.m.

Manteca can’t legally require any city employee – including City Manager Steve Pinkerton - to live within the city limits.

After a story appeared in Sunday’s Bulletin regarding supporters of the Manteca Police Officers Association questioning Pinkerton’s residency – who they are blaming for what they described as an “ultimatum” that led to the layoff of 12 police officers due to the lack of general fund money to pay them – several city managers from throughout California read the account on the paper’s website. They e-mailed the government code section that has been in effect for at least six years that makes it illegal for local jurisdictions to make a requirement that any local government employee – including the top administrator – to reside with the boundaries of the agency or district.

Mayor Willie Weatherford said he was also contacted by former Manteca city manager David Jinkens who also saw the story on the Bulletin’s website. Jinkens, who is now the city manager in South Lake Tahoe, told Weatherford that the state law now prohibits such a stipulation.
Government Code Section 50083 specifically states “No local agency or district shall require that its employees be residents of such local agency or district.”

The State Constitution was also amended after a court decision earlier this decade regarding San Francisco firefighters and that city’s residency requirements. It now states, “A city or county, including any chartered city or chartered county, or public district, may not require that its employees be residents of such city, county, or district; except that such employees may be required to reside within a reasonable and specific distance of their place of employment or other designated location.”

Manteca’s contracted legal counsel – the firm of McFall, Burnett & Brinton – apparently was not aware of the changes in state law when they signed off on Pinkerton’s employment contract on June 3, 2008 or fashioned an amendment to the city ordinance regarding the city manager’s residency requirement that was first adopted by the City Council on Nov. 17, 2009.

Weatherford Sunday said he would be in favoring of getting rid of the ordinance since it conflicts with state law and simply adopt a resolution stating that the “City Council encourages all city employees to live in Manteca.”

“It wouldn’t have any teeth but it makes a political statement,’ Weatherford said.

The Bulletin has learned at least two council members involved in the selection process in the spring of 2008 were insistent that the next city manager live in Manteca. The council apparently was not counseled to the legality of that requirement under state law as Pinkerton’s contract states he “shall establish his residence in the City of Manteca during his term of employment.”

Pinkerton said he told the council members interviewing him back in April that he could not move to Manteca for several years until a personal issue was resolved.

Pinkerton still intends
to eventually
move to Manteca

Pinkerton on Sunday again reaffirmed that his plan is to move to Manteca as soon as that matter is cleared up. He declined to elaborate.

“City managers who reside (in the city) they serve can be more effective,” Pinkerton said adding he doubted there was a city manager who’d disagree with that point.

Even though Pinkerton’s contract did not stipulate the exact residency requirement to moving to Manteca within 180 days of being hired as outlined in a municipal ordinance, the council almost six months later when Pinkerton still hadn’t moved from Stockton to Manteca went ahead and changed the wording of the ordinance.

The changes – prepared and signed off by the city attorney – changed the requirement from 180 days to “within a reasonable amount of time.”

The issue now is whether the employment contract the council signed with Pinkerton confirms to state law and why the city in November 2008 – a good five years plus after the state had changed the rules – adopted an ordinance that clearly violates state law given the political charged atmosphere that surrounds issue of where city employees live.

The City of Rancho Palos Verdes, as an example, upon their city attorney learning of the change in state law repealed that city’s residency requirement for city managers in the summer of 2003.

Manteca Unified critics like to point out that many of the top administrators in the school district – including Superintendent Jason Messer – do not reside in Manteca.

The supporters of the MPOA brought up the fact Pinkerton doesn’t live in Manteca in a bid to generate public opinion against the city’s position of either take a reduction in compensation or have the police force reduced by 12 officers.

Roughly 80 percent of Manteca’s officers do not live in Manteca. Many who were hired when real estate prices were high could not afford to live here and others opted to simply have a family life away from their job as police officers tend to be highly visible members of the communities they serve.

Weatherford, a former Manteca police chief as well as former city manager/police chief in Galt, said he doubted anyone would have raised an issue with where Pinkerton lives if it hadn’t been for the municipal budget crisis triggered by the foreclosure meltdown, the weak economy, and the state “borrowing” and outright taking of local tax receipts to cover their deficit.

“If there was money to pay for everything, this wouldn’t be such a big issue,” Weatherford said.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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