Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica and state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, introduced matching bills that permit city firefighters to live either within Oneida County or contiguous counties.
The Assembly passed the measure on Wednesday, and the bill passed the state Senate on Thursday. It now must be signed or vetoed by the governor later this summer.
Under the state law, firefighters employed by cities with less than 1 million people must live within the county they work in.
There are at least four firefighters who live outside Oneida County and rather than push forward with a protracted legal battle to force them to comply, the city asked for an exemption.
Brindisi said he put the bill forward after speaking with Mayor Robert Palmieri and the union and it was not a unique request.
“There are at least three dozen other municipalities with that exemption,” he said.
The union believes having an exemption is quicker and easier than fighting another legal battle with the city over the correct interpretation of the state law, said union president Robert Wenner.
“We’re very happy to have the assemblyman and the senator’s support,” he said. “We still believe ours is the correct legal position.”
The city has a poorly enforced law that has been fought in court and requires city employees to live within city limits. State law, however, trumps city law.
Fire Chief Russell Brooks said he had not spoken with Brindisi or Griffo on the proposed exemption but said he would not support forcing firefighters who are breaking the state law to move to the city.
“I don’t think it’s fair to uproot their families who have lived there for years,” he said
Read more: http://www.uticaod.com/news/x1220217672/Bill-exempts-city-firefighters-from-residency-rules#ixzz2X2whRbyQUTICA —
At least four city firefighters do not live in Oneida County — a fact that might violate state law and could prevent them from being city employees.
But the firefighters’ union believes a clause in the state law gives them an exemption.
The four firefighters, Lt. Michael Andrade, Firefighter Jeffery DeSarro, Lt. Francis Guarascio, and Lt.
Update: Local 32 has been aware of a complaint filed with the City. this was a request to look at our Members residency as it pertains to the States Law. I have been in contact with Atty. Ron Dunn about this issue and have contacted those Members involved. Mr. Dunn has ensured me we are protected with residency in an adjoining County. He is preparing an opinion letter for the City. We will keep the Members up to date as this issue is resolved. Pres. R. Wenner
UTICA: At least four city firefighters do not live in Oneida County ? a fact that might violate state law and could prevent them from being city employees. But the firefighters? union believes a clause in the state law gives them an exemption. The four firefighters, Lt. Michael Andrade, Firefighter Jeffery DeSarro, Lt. Francis Guarascio, and Lt. Mathew Zennamo, all live in Herkimer County. It is common knowledge they don?t live in the county but the state law allows them to live in contiguous counties, said Rob Wenner, union president. ?We believe we?re protected in adjoining counties,? he said. A 2007 opinion by the state Attorney General?s office, however, disagrees. In an informal opinion, looking at the same issue in the city of Syracuse, Assistant Solicitor General Kathleen Sheingold wrote that paid city firefighters did have to live within Onondaga County. Sheingold also wrote that the exemption for contiguous counties is only for cities with over 1 million residents and was originally intended only for New York City. Utica?s population is approximately 62,000. Mayor Robert Palmieri said on Wednesday he was unaware of the situation. ?We will conduct a thorough investigation,? he said. The city will look at the situation with legal counsel before deciding what the appropriate step is, he added. Fire Chief Russell Brooks said he did know that several firefighters lived outside the county and that he had informed the union they were violating state law. Brooks said he did not know which firefighters specifically lived outside the county but pointed out residency requirement issues have plagued the city for some time. ?It hasn?t been enforced,? he said. ?The city has done a dismal job of enforcing this over the years.? Firefighters are exempt from the city?s residency laws. If the department is exempt from city residency rules, it should follow state law, said Public Safety Committee Chairman Frank Meola, D-at-large. ?The union was adamant about the city?s residency requirement,? he said. ?I?d hope they?d be as adamant about enforcing the state law within their union.?