Queens Library, City Comptroller In Court

BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Staff Writer

The Queens Library saga continues.

This week, in an interview with the Queens Tribune, City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed that his case against Queens Library has made its way to court and that he is confident there will be a ruling in his favor.

The news comes just two weeks after members of the board failed to pass a motion that would require the nonprofit to fully comply with an audit by Stringer. The Library denied the motion on several grounds, including a stipulation made nearly 17 years ago.

“The conduct of the Queens Library board is absolutely disgraceful,” Stringer said.

The Stipulation of Settlement, signed into agreement in 1997, states that “the Comptroller will not audit revenues to or expenditures from subpoena the records of, or otherwise seek to compel the production of any financial records from the past, present or future.”

But when weighing the hefty chunk of funding that the Library receives from taxpayers, Stringer is adamant that the nonprofit give his auditors access to all financial records.

“Libraries are the centerpiece of our communities and some 75-85 percent of Queens Library’s funding comes from tax dollars,” Stringer said. “All we want to do is make sure that the money is going to benefit the citizens of our City.”

Stringer is not the only City leader who believes there is a problem with the governance at Queens Library. Earlier this week, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sent a letter to State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Majority Leader of the State Senate Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, urging they pass legislation to reform the Library’s structure. The letter was also signed by the 14 Queens council members.

“Because of the current problems plaguing the Library … the trust and confidence in the Library has been undermined,” Katz wrote. “And unfortunately, the board of trustees has shown little leadership thus far in dealing effectively with all of these issues. Faith must be restored in the Library, so we are asking [for] your support in passing [this legislation,] which would institute the enhanced oversight and transparency necessary.”

Time and time again, Queens Library has claimed it “believes in accountability and transparency,” highlighting that it “has released all requested financial documentation in accordance with the court ordered agreement of 1997.”

But Stringer said he feels that the Library’s claims that it has been acting with transparency is misleading.

“For them to mislead the public and tell the public that they are, in fact, cooperating, is nothing more than a bold-faced lie,” he said.

He went on to say that he is confident he will win the case, but expressed frustration with the Library’s consistent lack of cooperation.

“We’re going to eventually get the documents and we’re probing spending and best practices in the Library,” he said. “But if this is any indication of how they approach transparency and good government, I think we have a real problem.”

When asked about the future of Queens Library in terms of City funding, Stringer said that it is entirely possible that the nonprofit will suffer.

“If you don’t turn over the documents, how in good conscience can you fund an organization that’s operating behind closed doors?” he asked.

Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or nkozikowska@queenspress.com or @nkozikowska.