Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Nov-Dec 2015 issue

Letter of the Law: Residency Requirements for City Officials and Employees

By Susan Naughton

Can a Minnesota city require its officials and employees to live in the city? The answer is different for a city’s elected officials, its appointed officials, and its employees.

But first, why would a city want to adopt such a requirement? The typical reasons are that city residency ND15Residencewill give city officials and employees a stake in the community they serve and allow them to respond quickly in emergencies.

Rules for officials and employees
Elected officials must maintain a city residency. Under the Minnesota Constitution, a candidate must live in the city for at least 30 days before a city election in order to serve as a mayor or councilmember. If a mayor or councilmember fails to maintain a city residency, state statute provides that a vacancy in office is created.

State statute authorizes statutory city councils to create advisory boards as “deemed necessary for the proper management and operation of city affairs.” This statutory authority does not require or prohibit the adoption of a city residency requirement. Therefore, a statutory city may choose to adopt such a requirement for its advisory boards. A home rule charter city may also choose to adopt such a requirement for its advisory boards if its charter either permits it or is silent on the issue.

In addition, there are several state statutes that specifically authorize cities to create certain commissions, boards, and other city entities. A city generally may choose to adopt a city residency requirement for these entities as long as such a requirement does not conflict with the authorizing statute or (if applicable) with the city’s home rule charter. In fact, several state statutes contain a city residency requirement for some city entities, including certain police civil service commissions, heritage preservation commissions, housing and redevelopment authorities, and library boards.

When it comes to employees, state statute (Minnesota Statutes, section 415.16) prohibits both statutory and home rule charter cities from adopting a residency requirement. However, there are a few limited exceptions to this.

Minneapolis and St. Paul
In 1992 and 1993, the Legislature adopted special legislation authorizing Minneapolis and St. Paul respectively to require city residency as a condition of employment. In 1999, the Legislature repealed this special legislation. Therefore, Minneapolis and St. Paul are currently prohibited from adopting a residency requirement unless it complies with either of the two exceptions for metropolitan area cities.

Cities in the metropolitan area
Cities in the metropolitan area may adopt a residency requirement for employees in only two situations:

  • First, they may require city residency for positions which, by their duties, require the employee to live on the premises of his or her place of employment.
  • Second, they may impose a reasonable response-time residency requirement for people employed as volunteers or as members of a nonprofit firefighting corporation if there is a demonstrated job-related necessity.

The response-time residency requirement must be established without regard to the city’s boundaries. For example, a city may require its volunteer firefighters to live at a location that allows them to respond to the city within 15 minutes.

The metropolitan area includes the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota (excluding the City of Northfield), Hennepin (excluding the cities of Hanover and Rockford), Ramsey, Scott (excluding the City of New Prague), and Washington.

Cities outside the metropolitan area
Cities outside the metropolitan area have authority to adopt a residency requirement for employees in three situations. The first two are the same that apply to metropolitan area cities and are described above.

The third situation is that these cities may also impose a reasonable area or response-time residency requirement for employees if there is a demonstrated job-related necessity.

The area or response-time residency requirement must be established without regard to the city’s boundaries. Typically, cities are most likely to subject police, first responders, and some public works employees who must respond to emergencies to such a requirement.

Best practices
Before adopting an area or response-time residency requirement, a city should be able to demonstrate that the employee in the position in question needs to respond quickly, and that the area or response time selected is reasonable. Finally, cities that adopt such a requirement may want to limit its application to employees hired after its adoption, to avoid causing hardship to existing employees.

Susan Naughton is a research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: snaughto@lmc.org or (651) 281-1232.

Read the November-December 2015 issue of Minnesota Cities Magazine

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