I watched the doings of the Little Falls City Council last night on local access Channel 6. The most heated debate took place concerning a residency requirement for the new City Administrator. A motion was made to require the City Admin to live within 5 miles of Bank Square in Little Falls. There was some discussion as to whether there should be a response time requirement instead, with Council Member Michael Doucette favoring this approach, rather than a particular geographical requirement. Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem wanted to do away with the residency requirement altogether, saying that it would cut down on the number of qualified candidates that would apply for the position. Both Doucette and VanRisseghem recently attended a conference with employees from other cities who asked how the search was going and, upon learning that it’s going nowhere, wondered what’s wrong with the city. Doesn’t that make you feel confident? When the official vote on the residency requirement was taken, all Council Members, with the exception of Doucette and VanRisseghem, voted in favor, so the motion passed.

This led me to wonder, what does state law say about residency requirements for city employees? The applicable Minnesota Statute is 415.16. It says –

Subdivision 1. No exception for on-premises residence. Notwithstanding any contrary
provision of other law, home rule charter, ordinance or resolution, no statutory or home rule
charter city or county shall require that a person be a resident of the city or county as a condition
of employment by the city or county except for positions which by their duties require the
employee to live on the premises of the person’s place of employment.
Subd. 2. Reasonable area or response time requirement. A statutory or home rule charter
city or county, except if it is located in the area defined in section 473F.02, subdivision 2, may
impose a reasonable area or response time residency requirement if there is a demonstrated,
job-related necessity.
Subd. 3. Volunteer or nonprofit firefighters. A statutory or home rule charter city or
county may impose a reasonable residency requirement on persons employed as volunteers or as
members of a nonprofit firefighting corporation if there is a demonstrated, job-related necessity.
The residency requirement must be related to response time and established without regard
to political subdivision boundaries.

Got that? So, the real question, according to the statute, is whether there is “a demonstrated, job-related necessity” for the City Admin to live within the city limits.  If so, then we can hash out what “reasonable” means in relation to area and response time.

Even a fish can look up a law in the great state of Minnesota,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel