DC Council to consider changes to residency rules for District employees

D.C. Council members are considering changes that would strengthen residency requirements in the District. After FOX 5’s reporting uncovered some government employees are not abiding by the spirit of the residency law in DC Code, council members are starting to take a closer look.

The move comes after an incident with D.C.'s former Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart, who revealed he rented an apartment in D.C. but lives with family in Falls Church, Virginia.

Some D.C. government employees are taking advantage of loopholes in D.C.'s residency requirement, claiming to live in the District while having a home somewhere else. 

FOX 5 spoke with D.C residents who think leaders in the nation’s capital making decisions should live where they govern.

"It should’ve been addressed years in advance before this situation popped up because now there are so many people who are going to be in jeopardy because they do live outside of D.C.," said D.C. resident Sinie Duncan. "Unfortunately in the process, D.C. is going to have to figure out how to make living in D.C. affordable for the people who work for them, so it’s going to be a whole lot of give and take at this point."

"There will always be those people that want to think that the rules don’t apply to them – they’re an exception – I think it’s a matter of making sure those requirements make sense and are tied to some sort of goal to effectively managing a city," said D.C. resident Taylor Tremont.

FOX 5 interviewed council member-at-large Elissa Silverman who believes changes need to be made to the D.C. code in regard to residency requirements for government employees.

"There have been other members of our government who have not applied for top jobs because they either didn’t have a residency requirement or in their present job have gotten an exception, but if they applied for that cabinet-level position they might not – so they had to make the difficult decision not to take that job and therefore didn’t move their family into the city," said Silverman.

On Thursday, Oct . 6, Silverman sent an e-mail to the DC Human Resources (DCHR) Interim Director Lindsey Maxwell asking a number of questions including how an employee’s true place of residence is determined if they have a second home outside the district.

Last Wednesday, October 12th, DCHR requested a two-day extension to Friday, October 14th, but Silverman’s office says at this time, they still have not received a response.

FOX 5 also reached out to the DCHR and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office for more information and we’re waiting to hear back.

Silverman has been pushing to increase the number of district residents who work for the D.C. government. She says the agencies that the D.C. Deputy Mayor of Public Safety and Justice oversees, including police, fire and EMS, have the lowest percentage of D.C. residents and the hope is for that to change.

"If we have a major incident, like for example on 9/11 or January 6th, we want to have first responders who are close who live in the city who can be called into service and not coming from Fauquier county or Charles county," said Silverman. "There’s also a tax advantage for us, we can’t tax the income of commuters. This is a statehood issue."

Council member Charles Allen sent FOX 5 DC this statement:

"Deputy Mayor Geldart’s living arrangements were a clear violation of the residency law. If you are a leader in this city, you need to live here. Home is not where you lay your head a few nights a week, it is where you live and where you feel invested in the community around you during work and after. This is a requirement that applies to all government agencies and spans the oversight of all Council committees. I know I am interested in looking at ways we can strengthen the law if necessary, and I know several of my colleagues are as well."

Any changes to the residency law would most likely not start moving forward until the D.C. council's next session, where a bill could be introduced followed by hearings to discuss potential changes.