The residency requirement
Spelled out in the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978, the idea behind the city’s residency requirement for Cabinet-level appointees is that officials who lead city agencies need to know firsthand the issues of residents. The rationale got a boost when President Obama drew on his own experience as a D.C. resident to justify his approval of license plates for his presidential limousine with the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan that exemplifies the feelings of alienation of many Washingtonians.
“After living here for four years,” Mr. Obama said, “I’ve become sensitized to the issues and concerns of D.C. residents.”
Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent C. Gray, said “residency requirements are necessary to ensure that District residents continue to have a voice at the most senior levels of their own government.” He also said the law governing residency “will be enforced to the fullest extent possible.”
A spokesman for Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said he considers Mr. Roogow a D.C. resident and referred The Times to the Department of Human Resources for a definition of “principal place of occupancy.”
But the evolution of the residency requirement — and its uneven enforcement — has been a hot topic for decades.
Only a few hundred employees, typically at the highest levels of city government, are required to live in the District. An agency head can get an exemption in rare cases for special circumstances.
More often, agency heads become ensnared in high-profile controversies about what the residency law requires of them. Former Attorney General Peter J. Nickles faced scrutiny for living in Virginia long after he was appointed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in 2006. In 2002, the D.C. Council became embroiled in a dispute with Inspector General Charles Maddox over how much time he spent at a family home in Prince George’s County.
The flap over Mr. Roogow’s residency began in 2011, when local activist Marie Drissel objected to the fact that the lottery director, appointed in 2009 and earning a salary of $176,000 to lead the 77-employee agency, resided in Maryland while running an operation that since 1982 has raised $1.7 billion to support education, recreation and parks, public safety, housing, and senior and child services in the District.
“There was an initiative by the D.C. Lottery to have Internet gambling in everyone’s home and at hot spots throughout the city with no public notice,” Ms. Drissel said. “I discovered much to my horror that the person about to change the face of D.C. — every neighborhood block by block — lived in Ellicott City, and he said he had no intention of moving.”
Until that time, the office of the chief financial officer, which oversees the lottery, assumed that D.C. law did not apply to the lottery director. But in a Dec. 23, 2011, letter to council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, Mr. Nathan cited a 2008 amendment to the D.C. Lottery Act: “The Executive Director shall be a resident of the District and shall remain a District resident for the duration of his or her employment by the Board. Failure to maintain District residency shall result in a forfeiture of the position.”
Because the chief financial officer’s office did not think the law applied to its personnel, Mr. Roogow was not required to forfeit his position. But he was required to become a resident within six months.
He did not even come close to complying with that edict.