Monday, May 17, 2010

New Hartford Public Library...

isn’t following its bylaws; that's the topic of an article in today's Observer Dispatch, but is that just the tip of the iceberg?

Ever since reading about the Utica Public Library vote that will be on the Utica School ballot Tuesday, Concerned Citizens has been reading NYS Education Law and reading through voluminous amounts of information that is readily available online in regards to libraries. There are four different types of libraries...association; municipal public; school district; and special district libraries.

After our research, we visited the New Hartford Public Library [about a month ago] to request a copy of their bylaws and charter. In talking to the Library Director, he stated that he believed they were an association library. However, our research had already led us to a link on the NYS Education Dept. website that lists several libraries in Oneida County; that website identifies New Hartford Public Library as a public town library...NOT an association library.

According to another page on the NYS Education website, a public town library differs from an association library in several ways. Among the differences:
A public municipal library has between 5-15 trustees number between 5-15 that are approved by a municipal governing board. Each trustee is appointed for three or five years and are responsible to municipal government, public, and Regents. They also must be residents of municipality.
Whereas an association library number has between 5-25 trustees that are elected by association members; not by a town board. Their terms of office are set by charter, and they are responsible to association membership and to Regents. Association trustee residential requirements may be established in bylaws.
According to the OD article, Library board President Mary DuRoss said:
...although the Town Board had to approve first-time appointments to the library board, reappointments were a different matter.
Clearly the Library bylaws state that the town board is the appointing authority which agrees with the information on the NYS Education website.

Another difference between a public municipal library and an association library...employees of public municipal libraries are subject to Civil Service Law while association library are not covered by Civil Service. That brings us to another question...have the employees of the New Hartford Public Library been hired through the Oneida County Civil Service?

Our research also lead us to a NYS Comptroller's Opinion regarding reporting that is required of public municipal libraries. According to the opinion letter:
This is in response to your inquiry concerning the filing of annual financial reports by the treasurers of public libraries. Specifically, you ask whether the provisions of section 263 of the Education Law requiring public libraries to file annual reports with the Board of Regents relieve those libraries from the requirement, under section 30(3) of the General Municipal Law, that the treasurer of each public library file an annual report of financial transactions with the Office of the State Comptroller.
Bottom line, according to the Comptroller's opinion letter:
...it is our opinion that section 263 of the Education Law does not operate to relieve public libraries from the requirement that annual financial reports be filed with the State Comptroller pursuant to section 30 of the General Municipal Law.

Why is the report to the Comptroller required under General Municipal Law §30(3) important? According to the footnote at the bottom of the Opinion page:
Also, it has been our opinion that since the term "financial transactions," as used in section 30(3), is not limited to those transactions involving public source moneys, the annual financial report filed by a public library should include information on both public and private source moneys.
Hmm...that means disclosure of not only public moneys, but also private funding. We FOILed copies of the latest reports submitted to the NYS Comptroller's office; however, we received a certified letter from the Library Director informing us that they have never filed a report with the Comptroller. Never filed the report to the Comptroller that is required by NYS General Municipal Law???

Don't get us wrong...New Hartford Public Library is a beautiful library and we are fortunate to have this resource in our town; however, our recent revelations seem to point to a library that has been running "by the seat of their pants" all the while expecting town taxpayers to bow to their every wish; no questions asked. You can clearly hear the indignant tone in their voices at the library budget workshop held last November during the preparation of the 2010 town budget. Each year taxpayers are being asked to fund considerable increases in operating expenses for the New Hartford Public Library...this year taxpayer dollars are funding the library to the tune of $475,000 which is actually less than the library asked for at budget time.

According to the OD article:
DuRoss said if the town government wanted to be more involved in the appointments, it could be.

“They can play a role if they want to exercise that responsibility,” she said.
We are most certain that the town board does want to exercise that responsibility...it's all part of doing their due diligence; something the previous town board failed to do.

According to today's OD article:
A spokeswoman for the state Education Department, which oversees the state’s public libraries, would not comment on New Hartford’s situation.

But she did say the division does periodic reviews of all the libraries’ compliance with their charters.
So what is she saying...they are aware of the situation and have turned a blind eye or they had absolutely no idea there were problems?

We will have more information shortly including documents that were furnished to us through the FOIL process. To be continued...

1 comment:

swimmy said...

You would think that someone charged with the awesome responsibility to run a library would have the competence, mental capacity, and qualifications to know what its obligations are, especially the legal ones.