CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A state court judge has upheld an Ohio law that nullifies residency rules for city workers. The decision opens the door for nearly 7,200 Cincinnati employees to join the exodus leaving Hamilton County for the fast-growing suburbs that have sprung up in Butler, Warren and Clermont counties. The ruling is sure to be challenged, but it declares the city's requirement employees must live within the boundaries of Hamilton County is now illegal and cannot be enforced.
Retired Hamilton County appeals Judge Bob Gorman has filed an 11-page "memorandum of decision" in Case No. A-0604513. The ruling is not online. Gorman, who handled the case as a visiting judge, said he is waiting for the lawyers from Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's office and the city solicitor's office to prepare a final entry that will formalize the decision. Cincinnati filed its legal challenge against the state ban on residency requirements for city workers last year. The dispute addressed whether the state can trump local laws in Home Rule cities.
The issue came to a head in the Ohio legislature two years ago. Republicans pushed through a bill unilaterally overturning local ordinances across the state that required city workers to live within the communities that paid their salaries. Some of the residency rules went back to the early 20th Century and were considered a traditional exercise of Home Rule powers.
But SB 82 repealed all those laws. Cleveland, Dayton, Lima and Cincinnati have all lost court challenges. Cleveland, for example, said its workers must live within the city limits. Cincinnati had such a rule, but loosened it in the 1990s to say employees must be Hamilton County residents. It was seen as helping hold population in the county -- Ohio's third largest -- which has been losing people to the suburbs.
While the home rule battle was under way in the legislature, the Ohio Municipal League counted 125 cities and 13 villages with residency laws. It said many had been adopted by voters at the polls in local referendums and accused lawmakers of meddling to undo those popular votes.
Former Gov Bob Taft signed the repeal into law in January 2006, and opponents said it violated the Home Rule provision of the Ohio Constitution. Judge Gorman, in his ruling against the City of Cincinnati, said the residency requirement repeal was a valid exercise of legislative power.
"The rule is well established that legislative actions have a strong presumption of constitutionality."
Marshal Pitchford is an Akron lawyer who wrote a legal analysis on the topic of municipal residency rules last year. It is worth a read for some history on the issue.