Domicile law causes confusion for New Orleans city employees - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Domicile law causes confusion for New Orleans city employees

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New Orleans, La. -

The City of New Orleans' residency law went on hiatus after Katrina but recently was reinstated. So what does it mean for city workers who no longer live in the parish? The law has created confusion that one City Council member wants to clear up.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed countless homes. In Orleans Parish, many chose to leave and rebuild their lives elsewhere while maintaining their jobs with the City of New Orleans. In an effort to help those people, the city put its domicile law on hold.

But on January 1 of this year, that law became active again.

Councilwoman Stacy Head says, "I would hate to put people who suffered such damage after Katrina, made decisions that were right for their family, in jeopardy of losing their job by a change in law that came without a lot of warning."

The domicile law means any person hired by the city, police department or fire department after January 1, 2012 must live in Orleans Parish.  But according to Head, the law contains a multitude of provisions and doesn't clearly state what will happen to current employees.

Many believe they'll be grandfathered in. But Head says, "Depending on which provision you look at will decide whether or not the grandfather truly applies."

Head believes her fellow City Council members want to keep the grandfather rule in place, so current city employees don't have to move. She's also drafted an ordinance that would give new hires 180 days to become New Orleans residents. Both issues will be hashed out by the City Council in the coming weeks.

But the Fraternal Order of Police questions why police officers should have to live in the parish in which they work. FOP attorney Raymond Burkart says the department has an issue with manpower, and a domicile rule will only add to the problem.

"The fact is, people don't care where their officers live. They want their officers to do their jobs and to do them properly and correctly and be there in emergencies and handle police business. It doesn't matter where an officer lays his head," Burkart said.

While he's opposed to the domicile law, Burkart thanks Stacy Head for coming up with an ordinance that takes into account the needs of the NOPD.  

For example, right now police recruits must move to Orleans Parish before they finish training.  Being a recruit doesn't always mean a guaranteed job when training is done.  Head's ordinance wouldn't require the recruit to move to the parish until that person becomes a regular employee.

"But at some point, under this ordinance, the officers will have to live in New Orleans," Burkart commented.

While helping recruits, Burkart says the law may keep away more seasoned applicants from trying to get a job with the NOPD.

According to a spokesperson with the city there are over 4,400 city employees. 31 percent live outside Orleans Parish.

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