When you get the bulk of your funding from the government, you should expect to be accountable to—perhaps one might say controlled by—elected officials and government agencies.
The New York Times and the New York Daily News report that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz dismissed eight members of the Queens Library board of trustees last week. Although it is a private nonprofit, the library receives 85% of its funding from taxpayers.
The board members were removed after they voted in April against firing the director of the library system, who is under investigation for using library improvement funds to renovate his personal office and for steering contracts for the work to a friend. The expenditures are now subject to inquiries by the FBI, the U.S. attorney general, the City Department of Investigation and the city comptroller.
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The Times points out that all eight of the dismissed trustees were appointed by previous mayors and borough presidents, but that de Blasio and Katz—both elected last fall—acted under state legislation enacted last month to reform the library system.
The mayor and borough president will now appoint new board members to fill those open seats. The library has more than 60 branches in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs, and its board consists of 19 members, 10 appointed by the mayor and nine by the borough president.
De Blasio’s office told the trustees by letter that that they had been dismissed for failing “to appropriately oversee the management” of the library and for “authorizing the expenditure of library funds for purposes that do not further its educational purpose,” specifically for refusing to remove the director during a vote in April.
The mayor’s spokeswoman told the media that “Queens residents deserve a strong library system that is transparent and fulfills its educational purpose, and it is the city’s responsibility to protect the integrity of this important cultural and educational institution.”
Especially when it’s footing most of the bill.—Larry Kaplan