For the past two years, the meeting held monthly in a bare Trenton conference room determined the fates of hundreds of New Jersey public employees, including scores of teachers and school administrators.
But the process has nothing to do with disciplinary actions or tenure or anything like that. The meetings of the five-member Employee Residency Review Committee are all about where people can live if they want to hold onto their jobs. Under the New Jersey First Act enacted in 2011, all New Jersey public employees must reside in New Jersey. There are a couple of exceptions, and the law grandfathered those who already lived out of state -- as long as they don't move.
But it’s pretty unforgiving otherwise, and it takes some fairly extraordinary circumstances of “critical need or hardship” for someone to live in New York, Pennsylvania, or anywhere else. And that’s where the review committee -- made up of five legislative and gubernatorial appointees -- comes in as the adjudicator of those requests.
In all, 501 cases have come before the committee as of May, with public employees requesting exemptions due to everything from health issues in their families to financial constraints that prevent them from staying in state. More than half of the cases involved local public school employees, followed by those working in state government.
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