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Queens Library Trustees Sue Melinda Katz to Get Their Jobs Back

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 4, 2014 5:04pm
 Queens Borough President Melinda Katz helped draft a new state law to keep closer tabs on the Queens Library.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz helped draft a new state law to keep closer tabs on the Queens Library.
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Queens Borough President's Office

QUEENS — Six trustees who were booted from the Queens Library board by Borough President Melinda Katz last month filed a lawsuit against her, claiming that their removal was "unconstitutional."

In the federal complaint, filed Friday, which also names State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the State of New York as defendants, the trustees said they want their positions back.

Katz removed members for supporting the library’s president, Thomas Galante, who has come under fire in recent months for his high salary and lavish spending.

Last month Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed two additional board members for the same reason.

The pols used a new state law enacted in June that gives elected officials who appoint the library's board members — the Queens borough president and the mayor — the power to remove them.

The six plaintiffs — Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades —  said in a statement that they want “to halt a brazen, and unconstitutional, power grab by the Queens Borough President, with the aid of the State Legislature, to transform the Queens Borough Public Library from an independent, private, nonprofit corporation into an organ of City Government controlled by the Queens Borough President and Mayor.”

The six plaintiffs also said that the new law passed is "unconstitutional" and should be scrapped. They seek unspecified damages from Katz as well.

The complaint says that when the library was established more than 100 years ago, it was formed as “an independent, self-governing educational institution.” But according to the complaint, "Katz set her sight on taking control of the Library for political use as she might see fit."

“Within six weeks of taking office she informed the Trustees that she would be pushing for state legislation to make them more accountable — to her," the complaint states.

Douglas Grover, an attorney who represents the booted members, said in a statement that “the Trustees remain on the board, and they can be removed only according to the Library’s bylaws, not by an unconstitutional statute or the whims of local politicians."

Michael Scholl, a spokesman for Melinda Katz, said Monday that the borough president is reviewing the complaint. He offered no comment at the time.