Local Government

Paul Martin, Esquire

Statute exempting firefighters from residency requirement does not violate constitutional prohibition against legislative interference with a charter city’s employment authority and is not an unconstitutional special law. City of St. Louis v. State of Missouri, No. 92159 (Mo. banc, November 13, 2012), Stith, J.

The charter of the City of St. Louis requires city firefighters to live within the city limits. Section 320.097 RSMo exempted from residency requirements any firefighter who had worked for seven years for a department when the available public school district had been unaccredited or provisionally accredited within the previous five years. The city challenged the statute as unconstitutional, claiming that it usurped the city’s charter authority to set conditions of employment and was a special law. The trial court agreed with the first claim and invalidated the statute. The State appealed.

Held: Reversed.

Article VI, § 22 of the Missouri Constitution prohibits any law “creating or fixing the powers, duties or compensation of any municipal office or employment” for any charter city. Noting that the city had not claimed the residency requirement was an employment “duty”, the Supreme Court held that the statute’s exemption did not interfere with the city of authority to regulate the powers, duties or compensation of its firefighters. In doing so the Court rejected the city’s claim that the provision encompassed and permitted charter cities to establish employment qualifications and other conditions without interference from the Missouri Legislature.

The Court went on to hold that as the statute’s classifications, i.e., a residency requirement and either unaccredited or provisionally-accredited schools, were open-ended, it was not a special law. Even though the only current jurisdiction that came within the statute’s scope was the city, it permitted other jurisdictions to fall within its classifications. In that the statute was rationally related to the legitimate governmental interests of making quality public education available to the children of firefighters and encouraging continued employment of firefighters, it was held constitutional.

County must comply with city’s building codes in construction of county administration building. Engelage v. City of Warrenton, No. 97965 (Mo. App. E.D., September 18, 2012), Mooney, P.J.

Warren County (third class) decided to build a new administration building in the City of Warrenton (fourth class). The city notified the county that it would be required to apply and pay for building permits. The county began construction without doing so. The city issued a stop work order, but the county did not stop. The city cited the county’s contractor for violating the city’s building code. The county applied and paid for the required permits under protest, then filed for declaratory judgment regarding the validity of the protested fees. The trial court ruled for the city, and the county appealed.

The county argued that the broad language of Chapter 49 RSMo, granted it plenary authority to construct county buildings. The city argued that Chapter 79 granted it paramount police power authority to adopt and enforce ordinances necessary for the public health, safety, and welfare, specifically including building construction regulations. The Eastern District found that Chapter 49 merely granted construction authority to third-class counties, while Chapter 79 granted specific police power to fourth-class citites authorizing the enforcement of their building codes against the county to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

In reaching this conclusion, the Eastern District relied on and distinguished § 64.170, RSMo, which grants police power authority to first and second class counties but acknowledged the Missouri legislature’s treatment of the specific issue in § 64.170 prohibited the county’s expansive view of its general Chapter 49 construction authority, thus precluding any conclusion that Chapter 49 superseded the city’s Chapter 79 police power to adopt and enforce its building regulations.

Editor’s Note: The court’s conclusion that a county’s police power under Chapter 64.170 did not apply to local governments, while dicta, could be helpful in resolving similar disputes between citites and their first and second class counties.