Queens Borough President Melinda Katz today praised members of the state Senate who early this morning voted 59 to 1 in favor of a bill that would reform the governance structure of the Queens Library and require the Library to adopt best practice reforms aimed at increasing the transparency of the Library’s operations.
The measure (bill number S. 6893B) is identical to an Assembly version (bill number A. 9217B) that was passed by the Assembly on June 9 by a vote of 132 to 0.
With the bill having been passed by both houses of the Legislature, it will become law if it gets Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
“I am thrilled that the Queens Library reform bill has passed both houses of the Legislature with resounding bipartisan majorities,” Borough President Katz said. “I want to thank all of the legislators who supported the measure and ensured it was brought to a vote before the close of this year’s legislative session, which ended this morning. The reforms contained in the bill are needed to ensure proper governance of the Queens Library and it would have been unfortunate if we would have had to wait a year for those reforms to gain legislative approval.”
The legislation was written in response to several ongoing investigations into the Queens Library’s financial and governance practices and is intended to restore full public trust in the management of the Queens Library, which has been serving the people of Queens for more than 100 years and is almost entirely funded by taxpayer dollars.
“The bill is a common-sense measure that would dramatically improve the governance and oversight of the Queens Library and help guarantee that it remains one of our borough’s most treasured institutions for many years to come,” Borough President Katz said.
If it is signed into law Governor Cuomo, the measure will improve the accountability of the Library’s Board of Trustees by:
- Reforming the appointment and removal structure of the Board of Trustees so that a Trustee can be removed by the official who appointed him or her. (That official would either be the Mayor or the Queens Borough President.
- Reducing the term by which a Trustee serves from five years to three years and require that Trustees either be residents of the borough of Queens or own or operate a business in the borough of Queens
- Reforming the current administrative committee structure by which the Board of Trustees oversees the Library’s president and other library personnel and replace it with an executive committee comprised of a broader cross -section of the Board’s membership
- Subjecting the Queens Library to the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)
In addition, the measure would require key Library staff members to file financial disclosure forms, place limits on their outside employment and require the Board to approve their hiring. It would also require the Library to hold annual budget hearings and offer a 30 day public comment period before it can adopt its annual budget.
“Good governance and a well administered Board of Trustees are crucial to an efficient and transparent Library system,” Borough President Katz said. “The measure the Legislature just passed and that we hope Governor Cuomo will sign will go a long way in ensuring the Library continues to deliver crucial educational, cultural and enrichment services with a renewed focus on transparency, openness and trust.”