Queens Library Reform bill signed into law
by Andrew Shilling
Jun 30, 2014 | 596 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sen. Gianaris at Library Reform Bill proposal in April
Sen. Gianaris at Library Reform Bill proposal in April
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Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the recently passed Queens Library Reform bill into law last week.

His signature comes just days after the bill narrowly passed through the state legislature in the final hours of session last Thursday night with a vote of 59-1.

And it comes just before the library's Board of Trustees were to vote on a taxpayer-funded golden parachute to the tune of $800,000 for embattled library head Thomas Galante, who has come under fire for his $392,000 annual salary and questions about library construction projects, even as the library laid off hundreds or workers claiming budget shortfalls.

The board decided to cancel the vote.

In order to create better oversight in the Queens Library, Sen. Michael Gianaris introduced the proposal in the New York State Senate in order to create a number of “best practice” reforms including the creation of audit and labor relations committees.

“Effective immediately, my bill will rein in the excesses revealed in recent reports and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system of which every Queens resident can be proud,” Gianaris released in a statement following the news.

The new law calls for the restructuring 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.

It also creates both an audit and labor relations committee, as well as mandates annual budget hearings. It also requires key staffers to file financial disclosure forms, limits outside employment, and requires the board’s approval before taking a job.

“This new law will now dramatically improve the governance and oversight of the Queens Library, which is 85 percent funded by taxpayer dollars,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who helped draft the bill, which was sponsored by State Seantor Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, in early April.

State Senator Tony Avella, who introduced competing legislation suggesting requirements and reviews for the library Board of Trustees and called for reforming all three of the city’s library systems, applauded the governor for signing the legislation.

“This bill will bring about some desperately needed and long overdue changes to the system, which receives enormous public funding and has been very clearly mismanaged,” Avella said.

His support for the Gianaris/Aubry came following a compromise that it would be revisited in the next term in an effort to expand and revise the bill. He also called on the mayor and borough president to take advantage of their new oversight and remove several board members.

“As this bill takes effect immediately, I now strongly urge the appointing authorities to swiftly remove the shameful Board of Trustees members who are poised to grant Galante monetary clemency for his disgraceful behavior while in charge of the Queens Borough Public Library,” Avella said in a statement.

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