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Officials squabble over Warren residency suit



Published: Thu, October 26, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Two city workers fired over residency returned to their jobs this week.

BY AMANDA GARRETT

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- One city councilman asked administrators to keep council members better informed about a residency lawsuit after the law department hired an outside firm for assistance.

"As a supporter of city residency I would like to know more about the process," Councilman Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, said at Wednesday night's council meeting.

Law Director Gregory Hicks said he would keep council members informed about the process though he is not obligated to come to them for approval.

Hicks said he hired the Cleveland law firm of Calfee, Halter & amp; Griswold to help the city deal with the "finer points" of Ohio constitutional law that will be required to combat a lawsuit the city is facing.

The city is not in compliance with the state law that lifts residency requirements for employees of municipalities. Warren's law requires all city workers to live within Warren city limits.

Lawsuit filed

In June, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 74 and Warren Management Association sued the city in county common pleas court, asking that the city's residency law be declared invalid.

In a response to the lawsuit, Hicks contended that the law -- Senate Bill 82 -- violates the Ohio Constitution's home rule amendment, which allows municipalities the right of self-government. Judge Andrew D. Logan has not yet made a ruling on the lawsuit.

In July, city council narrowly passed legislation that would bring Warren into compliance with the law, but Mayor Michael J. O'Brien vetoed the ordinance in September.

One of the legislation's co-sponsors, Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, said at the time that he did so to help the city avoid costly legal battles.

Since the mayor's veto, two city safety workers were fired because they moved out of city limits, though the two men were allowed to come back to their jobs until the lawsuit is decided.

agarrett@vindy.com




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