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A court rejects a charter amendment similar to one in Youngstown giving bonus points to city residents

Published: Mon, December 16, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

Bonus points for residency prohibited in 8th District

By David Skolnick



A court of appeals decision rejecting a Cleveland charter amendment awarding bonus points to city residents on civil- service promotional exams doesn’t impact a similar Youngstown charter amendment — yet.

Cleveland is considering an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

If the state’s highest court upholds rulings from the 8th District Court of Appeals and a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, it would ban cities, including Youngstown, from giving bonus points to city residents on civil-service tests. Such a decision is likely years away.

“It will be a while down the road,” said Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris. “This ruling doesn’t have a binding effect on Youngstown” because the 8th District Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over Youngstown.

In the Nov. 8, 2011, election, Youngstown voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment giving city residents a 15 percent bonus to their overall civil-service scores.

“We are firmly in support of the people who voted for that charter amendment,” Farris said.

Cleveland voters approved a charter amendment March 6, 2012, that is more restrictive than the one in Youngstown. The Cleveland amendment gives city residents an extra five points on only promotional exams.

The amendment was challenged by Cleveland’s firefighters union two weeks after voters approved it. The union contends the amendment violates the Ohio Constitution. The Supreme Court had previously ruled the Ohio Constitution required “merit and fitness,” when possible, on civil-service tests and doesn’t address residency. A Cuyahoga County judge agreed with the union, and the court of appeals upheld that decision Thursday.

After the Supreme Court ruled in June 2009 that a law passed in 2006 by the state Legislature that removed the power of municipalities to require its employees to live in its borders, some cities, including Youngstown and Cleveland, asked voters to approve charter amendments to give bonus points to city residents. Employees must live in the home county of the city or village for which they work or a contiguous county, the Supreme Court decision from 2009 states.

Farris said he disagreed with the 8th Court of Appeals ruling because the state law, approved by the Supreme Court, only “dealt with residency requirements and not with civil-service test bonus points.”

In the 8th District’s 3-0 decision, Judge Eileen A. Gallagher wrote: “A scoring preference on a competitive civil-service exam is valid only if it is allied to appropriate qualifications. We see no reason why a candidate’s knowledge of the needs and expectations of the residents of the city cannot be ascertained competitively. Nor do we see a valid relationship between the preference points awarded by charter [amendment] and the merit and fitness of a promotional candidate.”

The state Supreme Court has previously found it constitutional to award an additional credit of 20 percent to the score of honorably discharged military veterans taking civil-service tests.

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