In 1995, the City of New Orleans implemented a domicile ordinance. The 1995 ordinance required that one live in the city to work for the city. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, the City Council waived the ordinance. It was waived once more and on December 31, 2012, those waivers expired. What we were left with was a domicile ordinance that could have significantly impacted the NOPD’s ability to recruit new officers.
The Fraternal Order of Police argued that the domicile ordinance should be permanently repealed. While we were lobbying for the ordinance’s repeal, it became clear that we did not have the votes on the Council and there was going to continue to be a domicile ordinance in some form.
City Council President Stacey Head took the lead on modernizing the ordinance. Under Councilmember Head’s amendment (Grandfather Heavy), the following changes would be implemented:
1. New police and fire hires would not have to comply with the domicile ordinance until they became regular employees (permanent employees).
2. For police employees, that would be 180 days after becoming a regular employee (after P/O I probationary period).
3. Any employee hired prior to January 1, 2013 would be globally exempt from the ordinance. That would mean that if you lived out of the city, you could remain out of the city and you would be free to establish a new domicile out of the parish without jeopardizing your employment. Finally, you could move into or out of the city as you saw fit.
If there had to be a domicile ordinance, which appeared to be the case, Councilmember Head’s ordinance seemed reasonable, especially if you were hired prior to January 1, 2013.
On March 4, 2013, the FOP appeared before the Governmental Affairs Committee for the City Council to again argue (.pdf) for the ordinance’s repeal. It appeared that Councilmember Head’s amendment, as outlined above, would be presented to the City Council on March 7, 2013.
At that time, we learned that Councilmember Cantrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would require anyone hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived out of the city to move back into the city if they changed their actual domicile address. Furthermore, the amendment would have required you to move back within 180 days in order to accept a position at a higher classification (promotion).
A little while later, we learned that Councilmember Hedge-Morrell intended to introduce an amendment (Grandfather Lite) that would make it illegal for city employees hired prior to January 1, 2013 who lived in the city to move out of the city.
Councilmember Head’s amendment came up for a vote first and passed. Councilmember Hedge-Morrell’s amendment came up next and passed. Councilmember Cantrell’s amendment, one urged by Mayor Landrieu, came up next and failed.
What are we left with? Here is a gist of how the ordinance will look:
1. All city employees must live in the city.
2. In order to be hired by the City of New Orleans, you must live in the city. However, you will be given a 180 day grace period in which to comply. New police employees (after January 1, 2013), they will have 180 days from the point they become regular employees (permanent) to comply with the ordinance.
3. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013, and you live outside of New Orleans, you can stay outside of New Orleans without effecting your employment or ability to be promoted.
4. If you were hired prior to January 1. 2013 and you live outside of New Orleans, but subsequently move back in to the city, you cannot move back out.
5. If you were hired prior to January 1, 2013 and you live in the City of New Orleans, you cannot move out. If you move out of the city, you would be in violation of the ordinance and subject to termination.
6. If you are hired after 12/31/12 and the applicable grace period has expired, you must live in the city and you cannot move out of the city.
7. You will be able to request a hardship waiver through your Appointing Authority (for police that is the Superintendent) and the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city. At this point, we do not know exactly how that will work.
The FOP would like to thank Councilmember Head for working closely on drafting this ordinance. She and her staff were very responsive to our concerns, even if we did not agree on everything. Hopefully the Council will realize the folly of this ordinance and repeal it in the near future. You should feel free to contact your elected representatives and express your opinion.