New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell sparked a controversy when he wrote a letter to the City Council nominating New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro for the vacated position of harbormaster.

"My job is to make sure that our port is safe for everybody, and in my mind, that means that the experts are in charge," Mitchell said.

Previous Harbormaster David Condon was forced to resign because he didn't comply with the city's residency requirement. That's led many to question why Mitchell would recommend Cordeiro, a Dartmouth resident, and suggest the chief be given a residency waiver for the harbormaster position.

Mitchell told WBSM's Barry Richard his preference is for city employees such as police, firefighters and even teachers to live in the city, but he understands that sometimes to get the best available candidate you have to go outside New Bedford.

"For instance, we've given waivers to a number of paramedics the last couple of years, having not gotten too many qualified candidates (from New Bedford)," Mitchell said. "So we've had to go outside (the city)."

He said a waiver for Chief Cordeiro would make sense, because the mayor says the police chief and harbormaster essentially perform the same duties, and other municipalities in Massachusetts have also put the same person in both positions.

When Richard suggested that Condon might bring a lawsuit against the city if Cordeiro is given a residency waiver when he was not, Mitchell refuted the idea.

"Based on what? Based on contracts?" asked Mitchell, a former federal prosecutor. "We didn't discriminate against him. We set down some conditions of employment that he didn't fulfill, and like any other contractual agreement, you don't fill your end of the bargain, you don't get the bargain anymore. That's the long and short of it."