When D.C. police officer James Beadel was called to a hearing April 24 and told to prove that he was a District resident, he thought he had convincing evidence.
He laid his proof on the table: a copy of his phone bill, sent to his District address; his D.C. voter's registration; his District driver's license; a copy of his pay stub showing that D.C. taxes were being taken out; an accounts receivable card from a Southeast Washington apartment complex showing that he paid rent there; a copy of his lease; a letter from the manager of the apartments saying that Beadel was a tenant; a copy of his tax returns, prepared by H&R Block.
At the end of the hearing, the examiner, Winfred R. Mundle, told Beadel that he was going to rule against him and recommend that he be fired for not living in the District, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Mundle's recommendation was based on the District's controversial residency law that requires that, with some exceptions, all city government employes hired after Jan. 1, 1980, live in the District.
In a written conclusion, Mundle cited Beadel's "inconsistent course of conduct," "the infirmity of [his] self-serving declaration," and his "retained relationship with the state of Maryland." The examiner found that Beadel had a phone number listed at his sister's apartment in Silver Spring, a car registered in Maryland at his mother's Rockville address and a valid Maryland driver's license.
Mundle noted that, under District law, Beadel had 180 days from the time of his appointment to the police department to become a resident of the District, but that he registered to vote 39 days after that deadline, and that his D.C. driver's permit was issued 225 days after he was hired.
The residency law, which was designed to increase tax revenues and decrease unemployment in the District, has been controversial since the day it was enacted. Persons hired before Jan. 1, 1980, are exempt, as are top financial managers, data processors, persons in hard-to-fill positions and city employes who work at institutions outside the District.
The next round in the residency debate is today, when D.C. City Council member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5), chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, will hold public hearings on the impact of the residency requirement.
The main critics of the residency law have been officials of unions that represent city workers, claiming that their members cannot afford housing in the city and that the law should apply to everyone or no one. Some city officials have also said that the law sometimes discourages the hiring of highly skilled people.
Some D.C. government employes have managed to beat the residency law with a variety of shams. The most frequent subterfuge is done by groups of employes who live outside the District and who rent a common house or apartment in the city and use that as their mailing address.
Since the law was put into effect, at least 40 government employes have been terminated for noncompliance, according to the D.C. Office of Personnel.
In the spring, the personnel office sent letters to more than 31 D.C. police and firefighters ordering them to attend a hearing to prove that they were District residents or face being fired.
The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the city's rank and file police officers, charged that the District was conducting a "witch hunt" because the hearing examiner acknowledged that the District had no evidence that any of the officers lived outside the District. Mundel recommended that eight officers be terminated. All the cases are being appealed.
After the hearing process, Mundel recommended that seven firefighters be fired for not complying with the residency laws, according to Tom Tippett, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 36.
Clinton A. Hilliard, head of the D.C. Office of Personnel, said that the hearings were designed to ensure that "all persons are protected" at the same time that the law is upheld. He declined to discuss pending cases, saying that they will eventually come to him for final decisions.
According to Gary Hankins, labor committee chairman for the Fraternal Order of Police, because police officers are required to carry their service revolvers even when off duty when they are in the District, they are on the job 24 hours a day if they live in the city.
In addition, Hankins said, because of low pay and a lack of affordable housing in the District, officers are forced to live in lower-income neighborhoods, where many of the people they arrest live. "There are a lot of personal examples of officers and their families being threatened or attacked, their homes and automobiles being vandalized and robbed," Hankins said.
For officer Beadel, whose case is under appeal, today's public hearings may mean the difference between being fired and keeping his job. The focus of the hearings is expected to be on legislation that would exempt police officers and firefighters below the rank of lieutenant from the residency requirement and a measure that would make residency a preferential qualification for job applications.
The legal standards for a residence, according to Hilliard, are that a person establish a domicile and intend to remain there. The District's view is that the city can require any government employe at any time to prove that he or she lives in the city, whether or not there is evidence to the contrary. The police and fire unions, in their termination appeals, have argued that the city has the burden of proving that their members do not live in the city.
The complexities of the residency issue can be illustrated by the residency of Hilliard himself, who was director of the Montgomery County personnel office until he was hired by the District in November 1983.
According to a review of public documents in Maryland and the District, and to Hilliard himself, as of Friday Hilliard owned homes in Gaithersburg and Northwest Washington, received mail at each address, was licensed to drive and had vehicles registered in each jurisdiction. He is registered to vote in Maryland and the District, but he has not voted in Maryland since 1982 and he voted in the District in 1984.
He owns a BMW that was registered in the city this summer, more than 18 months after he was hired by the District. One of his sons, while a juvenile, lived at the Gaithersburg home and graduated in June from a Montgomery County high school. The Gaithersburg house was sold about two weeks ago and the real estate agent said the closing is Oct. 15.
The FOP's Hankins, when told of Hilliard's situation, expressed the opinion that not even Hilliard would be able to meet the standards applied by the hearing examiner.
He said, "I am absolutely convinced that if [Hilliard] were a metropolitan police officer and his case was put before [hearing examiner] Mundle, it would result in a recommendation that Hilliard be fired."
"If he is holding two residences, we can certainly sympathize with why he's doing that," Hankins said. "We can't afford to do it ourselves, and the standard as applied to us doesn't allow us to do it."
"There is not a double standard," Hilliard said in an interview Friday. "I don't care about how many residences a person has. What I care about is that they have to be a domiciliary" of the District, meaning "where you go home at night, your basic abode."
Asked to address the similarities and explain the differences between his situation and the hearing examiner's findings against Beadel, Hilliard said that he would not discuss Beadel's case because it is in litigation.
About his own residency, Hilliard pointed out that he owns a condominium in Northwest Washington and pays income taxes in the District. He said he has a valid D.C. driver's license and two cars registered in the District, and he is registered voter in the city.
"I am clearly a resident domiciliary of the District of Columbia and have been since April 1984," when he bought his condominium in Northwest.
Hilliard said he kept the house in Gaithersburg so that his sons, who he said both lived there, could complete their education at the schools in which they were then enrolled. One son turned 18 last January and the other was an adult, so there was no problem with supervision of the juvenile, Hilliard said. He said he and his wife, who both lived in the Northwest condominium, spent some weekends at the Gaithersburg house.
Hilliard said that he does not use his Maryland driver's license and that the truck registered in his name to his Gaithersburg home was purchased for one of his sons. He said that the BMW that was registered in the District this summer was previously "garaged" at the Maryland home. He said another car he owns was registered in the District shortly after he moved here in 1984.
Hilliard said that one of the legal principles in deciding residency is a person's intent to reside somewhere permanently. "There is nothing more absurd than to say that I intend to stay in Maryland," he said.
Some D.C. employes are finding their jobs are not worth the fight to prove where they live. Brian Hickey said his ownership of a house in Maryland was the catalyst that caused him to quit the D.C. police force.
"I rented in Washington and owned a home in Frederick [Maryland]," he said, with his separated wife who continued to live there. "They said that because I moved from the house in Frederick and didn't clear myself of it, they said that was my domicile."
In April, a hearing examiner recommended that he be fired, Hickey said. Rather than fighting, he quit his job, moved in with his parents and is now enrolled in the Prince George's County police department training academy.