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Queens Chronicle

Senate passes Queens Library Reform Bill

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Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014 11:42 am

After a brief stall in the Senate, state lawmakers passed the Queens Library Reform Bill late Thursday night.

The legislation, now moved to the desk of Governor Cuomo, was crafted by state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and was introduced to the floor in April.

The bill was introduced after reports of possible excess and questionable spending occurred in the redesign of the Central Branch in Jamaica. CEO, Thomas Galante, who makes a $392,000 salary, is also under an FBI investigation concerning questionable fiscal management of the nonprofit, which gets federal, state and city funding. 

Recently, it was thought unlikely the bill would be voted on before the state legislative session recesses for the summer after members of the Democratic caucus and the newly formed Independent Democratic Caucus began bumping heads, stalling the process.

The Queens Library Reform bill calls for the creation of an audit committee to oversee the Queens Library's accounting and financial reporting processes and its annual audits, a labor relations committee to address labor issues and oversee contracting and require the executive staff  to file financial disclosure forms and place limits on their outside employment/

In addition, an appointment and removal structure of the Board of Trustees will be reformed so that a trustee can be removed by the official who appointed them, the term a trustee serves would be reduced from five years to three years and trustees must either be residents of Queens or own/operate a business in Queens.

The Queens Library would also be subject to the state's Freedom of Information Law. 

"Once enacted, 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 said in a written statement. "I am thankful for the way just about everyone in Queens came together to fight for these much-needed reforms, which says a lot about our borough's desire for transparency and accountability when it comes to public funds."

The bill passed the Assembly unanimously on June 9 and passed the Senate with a vote of 59 to 1.

"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 a statement.

Gianaris, Aubry and Katz expect Cuomo to sign the bill into law shortly.

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