Long Beach commissioners can now serve as volunteers, opening door for undocumented residents

Michelle Byelry, executive director of The Nonprofit Partnership, speaks to the Long Beach Ethics Commission Wednesday March 8, 2023. Photo by Jason Ruiz

By Jason Ruiz, Long Beach Post

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday approved changes to the pay structure for city commissions, a move that could allow for income-restricted and undocumented people to serve as commissioners in the future.

Amendments made Tuesday will allow members of most commissions to serve as volunteers and not accept payment for their time, or serve as a volunteer and receive up to $500 to cover expenses, a limit allowed under federal law for undocumented people.

Before the changes were approved, commissioners had been required to register as city employees and accept stipends that could range from $50 to $200 per meeting. To be eligible to be a city employee, federal law requires a person to be a legal resident of the country. In addition, advocates have said that the mandatory payments could jeopardize some residents’ ability to stay in subsidized housing or maintain other public benefits that are linked to their income.

Stipends and status as a city employee will no longer be mandatory once the changes go into effect. Commissioners who have already started serving their terms will have to wait until next year if they want to change their status. New commissioners who start serving later this year will be able to choose their status this year.

A new batch of city commissioners is expected to be appointed next month.

Not all city commissions will be affected by the changes. The city’s charter says that members of the Civil Service Commission, Harbor Commission, Utilities Commission and Planning Commission are “city officers” and are considered city employees.

A charter amendment would be required to potentially make those positions subject to the same opt-outs the council approved for other advisory bodies Tuesday night.

The changes will also allow the mayor to remove city commissioners from their positions with the support of two-thirds of the City Council. Previously, commissioners had to be absent from three consecutive meetings, move out of the city, show incompetence or commit other violations before the council could vote to remove them.

Original Source: [https://lbpost.com/news/long-beach-commissioners-can-now-serve-as-volunteers-opening-door-for-undocumented-residents]

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