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City employee residency at issue

City Council members may be forming a citizens committee to review potential changes in the city charter.

Council members made the recommendation Tuesday as they reacted to a request from Ward 5 Councilman Dwight Tanner to amend the city charter to allow the council to set residency requirements for city employees, using its power to create ordinances. They decided that rather than take action on one amendment, they would look at appointing a citizens committee to review that proposal and, potentially, others.

The city charter  the governing document for city government  sets its own rule for amendments, specifying amendments may only be made by a vote of the people. Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk said that when amendments are proposed, the council typically appoints a citizens committee to review the charter and potential changes, then return its recommendations to the council. The council then acts on those recommendations, deciding whether they will be set to a ballot that is submitted to city voters for a decision.

The last time Lawtonians voted to amend the charter was 2016, and it was within that charter review process that Tanner first made his proposal to allow the City Council to set residency requirements for city staff.

Initially, Tanner asked to set that residency requirement for department directors and supervisors, but he later amended his proposal to allow the council to set a residency requirement for any city employee. Now, the charter allows the council to set residency requirements for only the city manager and city attorney, two of the four employees it hires.

Tanner's argument  then and now  is that city employees should be invested in their community by living here and becoming part of the city.

The Lawton Constitution

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