The presentation of a list of names of Essex County employees currently not living within the boundaries of the county led to debate Monday, Dec. 19 over language in the current employee policy manual.
Monica Feeley presented the residency report to the assembled supervisors during the personnel committee meeting, stating that 30 employees had not returned their residency verifications and that there were eight employees who had responded that currently live outside the county.
Under the policy, an Essex County worker must reside in Essex County or, if they are hired, must move into the county within one year of being hired.
Feeley said that there are currently waivers on the table for some employees, including registered nurses and other specialists employed by the Horace Nye Nursing Home.
She added that she had seen a residency policy in place since 1987, which sparked some supervisors to say that those employees not living in the county should be the first to be laid off.
“I hope that we can get all of this in and together before we start laying people off,” Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said. “It upsets me if we have people who are living in the county and they get laid off before someone not following the policy does.”
Moriah Supervisor Thomas “Tom” Scozzafava said that he felt the policy was clear in stating where employees must live in order to stay employed.
“It clearly states that you have to move into the county,” Scozzafava said. “There are some that still don’t live here. Why are we letting them get away with this.”
“I do not think that it has been enforced,” Feeley responded.
“I think that we need to direct the department heads on how to proceed,” Elizabethtown Supervisor and committee chair Noel Merrihew III, said. “You can carry this discussion forward, but I do not feel that you can look backwards.”
“I say that we give them to the end of the year to verify where they live,” Scozzafava said. “Why are we playing games with this? If these people were hired under the policy and then never moved here knowing the policy, then goodbye to them.”
“I understand the issues with what is an emergency and what constitutes a waiver, but I believe the policy is very clear when it comes to residency,” North Elba Supervisor Robert “Roby” Politi said.
County Manager Daniel Palmer added that he felt there were some areas where the policy was lacking.
“It says that the policy goes into effect after it is agreed to, which was in 2005,” Palmer said. “That would mean that, even if it was in place in 1987, the current policy only deals with anything after 2005. What do you do with people hired before that?”
County Attorney Daniel Manning said that he is already working on a new policy with stronger language to help clarify any gray areas, adding that he felt the current policy was “a mess.”
Board chairman Randall “Randy” Douglas said that he agreed that a more specific policy was needed.
“If the language is not strong enough, we need to make it stronger and then determine where to go with these people,” Douglas said.