Legislature passes Queens Library Reform Bill
by Andrew Shilling
Jun 25, 2014 | 3137 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Senator Michael Gianaris presents the bill at Queens Borough Hall in early April
Senator Michael Gianaris presents the bill at Queens Borough Hall in early April
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In the final hours of the legislative session late last Thursday night, the State Senate nearly unanimously voted in favor of a Queens Library Reform Bill, which now awaits the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Drafted by Borough President Melinda Katz and introduced by State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, the proposal calls for a number of “best practice” reforms, including the creation of audit and labor relations committees in order to create better oversight.

The bill, passed by the Senate with a vote of 59–1, came in direct response to reports of potential mismanagement of public and private funding, as well as news that Thomas Galante was earning $392,000 per year as the branch’s executive director.

“I am thrilled the Senate so overwhelmingly passed my bill and look forward to it becoming law so we can end the abuses that plagued our library system,” said Gianaris.

The library reform legislation was passed in the Assembly by a vote of 132–0 one week before making its way through the Senate.

While a competing piece of legislation by State Senator Tony Avella - which introduced requirements and reviews for the library Board of Trustees and created reform for all three of the city’s libraries - did not make it to the floor, Avella said there may be a chance to revisit the agreement in the next term.

“There was no question that strong and swift action had to be taken to address the clear mismanagement within the library,” Avella said.

The bill that did pass includes provisions that the Queens Library board is now subject to the state Freedom of Information Law, an agreement amended into the bill after talks with Aubry, according to a press release from Avella’s office.

“Despite all the different opinions making their rounds in the press, I am glad that we were able to move past the politics and enact real reform within an institution that receives an enormous amount of public funding," he said.

If signed into law, the new bill would additionally reform the structure of the library board so that trustees can be removed by the official who appointed them – either by the mayor or Queens borough president – as well as reduce the current term from five to three years.

“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,” Katz said.

In addition to calling for annual budget hearings, the bill would also require that key staffers file financial disclosure forms, limit outside employment and require the board’s approval before taking a job.

“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,” Katz said.

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