Suit Filed Against Queens Library
By Joe Marvilli
A dispute over the release of minutes from the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees has led to a lawsuit from the union that represents the library’s employees.
On Oct. 23, Local 1321 filed a lawsuit against the Queens Library for refusing to give them copies of minutes from Board of Trustees’ meetings. The union, part of District Council 37, had been fighting to gain access to the minutes since January 2012 and was met with repeated refusals, according to 1321 president John Hyslop. The lawsuit was filed with the Queens Supreme Court.
According to the litigation, the Queens Library is obligated to release the minutes to anyone who requests them, as the meetings are open to the public. The Queens Library is a New York State Association Library. Therefore, the union believes it is subject to the New York State Education Law (Section 260) and New York State Public Officers Law (Section 106).
Section 260 of the State Education Law says that every meeting, including a special district meeting, of a board of trustees of a public library system “shall be open to the general public.”
Section 106 of the New York State Public Officers Law says that “the minutes of meetings of all public bodies shall be available to the public in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law within two weeks from the date of such meeting.”
“In January, I made what I thought was a simple request for the Board of Trustees’ minutes. I did not think the library’s administration would be so adamant about not sharing them,” said Hyslop. “The refusal to share the minutes baffles me, even after they learned of their obligation to provide them.”
The library countered the claim, stating that records are readily available to the public.
“We are a responsible and transparent organization. For over a century, Queens Library has maintained written records of its Board meetings that are currently housed in the Central Library and available for review,” Joanne King, library communications director, said. “It is an unnecessary and expensive administrative burden for the library to distribute these records upon request.”
Three formal requests and three informal requests were made for the minutes of meetings between January 2008 and December 2011. One of the most notable events the union hopes to shed light on is why Queens Library laid off 44 workers in 2010.
“We would be interested to see what transpired at those meetings,” said Hyslop.
Despite the upcoming legal battle, Hyslop did mention that the union is willing to find another solution with the library.
“If the library’s willing to settle, we can negotiate something,” he said. “We never want to file lawsuits.”
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.