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City Council to Discuss Employee Residency Rule

The Cambridge City Council will hold a public hearing tomorrow to examine a proposal that the city should adopt a residency requirement for municipal employees, Mayor Afred E. Vellucci said yesterday.

In a 4-3 vote last month, the Cambridge School Committee passed a residency requirement for school department employees effective in January. The rule required all newly hired teachers to become Cambridge residents within one year of their hiring or give up their posts. Present employees are exempted from the requirement.

Vellucci, who is also a member of the school committee, strongly supported the adoption of the new policy. He refused to state his position on the City Council proposal yesterday, saying, "That's all going to be discussed Wednesday."

A Massachusetts state law requires policeman and firefighters to live within a ten miles radius of the municipality they work in. Sgt. Harold Murphy, secretary of the Cambridge Police Association, said that it is not clear whether the radius is drawn from the city hall or the city limits.

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Murphy said he does not know "whether or not it's enforceable. We have not had any test cases." Some policeman may live outside both radii, he added.

In the past, Boston and many other state municipalities have not enforced the residency requirement.

Murphy and Andrew Bosworth, secretary of the Cambridge Firefighters Union, said yesterday they do not think the City Council is seriously considering a residency rule directed at either of their departments. Murphy said if the council adopts such a rule, "Of course we'd fight it."

The Supreme Court recently established the right of a municipality to enact a residency law in a Philadelphia case. Springfield has a residency law covering all city employees that is currently under review by that city's legal department. The city's police, firefighters and teachers' unions are prepared to challenge the rule because it conflicts with their present contracts.

Vellucci said the school department ruling is valuable because it will involve the school department employees in Cambridge affairs and improve their understanding of the city. It will help the employees "know what's it all about," he added.

John Sullivan, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said yesterday that his organization opposes residency rules because "they serve no educational purpose." Sullivan added that with rising tax rates in many major cities, residency rules are "mostly politics.

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