Any city worker who has a home in the burbs — such as, let’s say, a nice house in Lincolnshire — should be required to produce indisputable proof they really live in the city.
We’re thinking here, of course, of Kevin W. Graham, a candidate for president of the Chicago police officers union, the Fraternal Order of Police. As revealed this week by reporter Andy Grimm in the Sun-Times, Graham and his wife own a four-bedroom house in Lincolnshire. His name is on the water bill. But police officers, like almost all city employees, are required by city ordinance to live in town.
Graham claims he actually rents and lives in his sister’s Chicago condo while his wife lives in Lincolnshire. If so, let’s see the proof that real rent is being paid.
This is hardly the first time a city employee has used the “split family” explanation to justify such a living arrangement, and we don’t know where Graham spends his off hours. But we do know it’s fair to ask whether he’s putting us on.
Chicago imposes a residency requirement for good reason. Emergency workers, such as firefighters, can respond to a call faster. Employees who live in the city are more involved in their jobs and neighborhoods. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has referred to city workers as neighborhood “anchors,” saying they are critical to the vibrancy of the city. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, speaking more practically, used to warn the city could lose a large share of its middle class if the residency requirement were lifted.
Over the years, the true abodes of city workers have been questioned repeatedly. Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson has investigated scores of city employees accused of violating the rule, including one who turned up in his own office. Sixty-three police officers have resigned over residency issues since 1981, five have been fired, 23 have been suspended and four have been reprimanded.
For hard-to-fill vacancies and for employees who can prove a move would cause undue hardship, special waivers are granted.
For everybody else, as cops like to say, rules are rules.
We’re sure Officer Graham can understand.
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