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Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Cleveland’s Residency Bonus Points Ruled Unconstitutional

Giving Cleveland employees who live in the city extra credit on their promotional exams violates the Ohio Constitution, according to a ruling issued by the Eighth District Court of Appeals. In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court upheld the judgment of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

On March 6, 2012, voters approved an amendment to the Cleveland Charter to allow civil service employees an extra five points on their promotional examinations if they are city residents. The Cleveland firefighters union took the issue to court to get it declared in violation of the Ohio Constitution and state law. The trial court agreed, and the city appealed.

The firefighters union argued that Charter Section 74-1 violates Article XV, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution because the preference points are awarded arbitrarily and undermine the competitiveness of the civil service promotional process. In its defense of the amendment, the city argued that the preference points were a reasonable factor in determining an employee’s merit and fitness, and that it’s beneficial to have supervisors who live within the city because they are able to respond to emergencies faster.

Appeals Judge Eileen A. Gallagher wrote in the opinion that the constitution provides a framework and guideline for all civil service appointments in Ohio, and that previous Ohio Supreme Court cases have found that the constitution requires that “merit and fitness” are, when possible, to be determined by competitive examination.

“A scoring preference on a competitive civil service exam is valid only if it is allied to appropriate qualifications,” Judge Gallagher stated. “We see no reason why a candidate’s knowledge of the needs and expectations of the residents of the City cannot be ascertained competitively. Nor do we see a valid relationship between the preference points awarded by Charter Section 74-1and the merit and fitness of a promotional candidate.”

Judge Gallagher added that because of the finding that the charter amendment is unconstitutional, the court did not need to rule on whether it conflicted with state law.

Judges Mary J. Boyle and Frank D. Celebrezze joined in the decision.

Cleveland Firefighters Assn. v. Cleveland, 2013-Ohio-5439
Appeal From: Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: December 12, 2013

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