In no uncertain terms, Robert Hubsher, executive director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System, told the New City Library Board of Trustees on Thursday that its closed session on February 13 appears to have violated the Open Meetings Law. Hubsher said the Open Meetings Law requires seven days notice and that was not provided for the special meeting held last Wednesday. Hubsher noted the topic of the closed session held during the special meeting did not meet any of the eight criteria specified by the Open Meetings Law. He said a complaint was originally been lodged with one of the New York State Department of Education Regents and it was passed through to his office.
“It’s questionable under Open Meetings Law,” said Hubsher. “I would suggest that at minimum whatever decisions were taken at that meeting be revisited at a properly called public meeting and reaffirmed by the board.”
Prior to calling that executive session, Board President Tom Ninan said it would deal with explaining the president’s role. When the executive session ended, the trustees by a three to one vote approved Ninan’s attendance at library staff meetings.
On Thursday, Trustee Ed Kallen asked Ninan to declare the special meeting null and void and vacate all actions taken at it. Kallen and other trustees said they received email notification at 10:31 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 10 for the 5:30 p.m. special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
“The bylaws call for four day notice,” said Kallen. “There was no public notice as far as I know about the special meeting. And you then received powers which I don’t think are valid powers at an invalid meeting.”
Kallen then made a motion, “I’d like to move that this board declare that meeting and all business that arose form that meeting be declared invalid and void.”
Ninan said it was his understanding that he did everything correctly. Trustee George Jacobson reminded Ninan of his agreement to get a letter from the board’s attorney stating the property procedures were followed. Jacobson said on Thursday he had not received the letter yet.
With about 50 people in attendance, Hubsher said the board should not deal directly with staff and that contact should go through the library director who is considered the chief executive officer.
“It’s really important to maintain the hierarchy,” said Hubsher. “Hierarchies exist because decisions have to be made.”
He warned that when the board gets between management and staff, it breaks down the hierarchy. Hubsher reminded the board that the director runs the library on a daily basis whereas the board sets policy. Even though the library does not have a director, Hubsher said it has 12 fulltime librarians on staff who are qualified to make decisions, there is no reason for the board to be involved in the day to day operations and the board has had the option of appointing an interim director who was not a staff member.
“You had the opportunity to look to somebody else inside the building or outside,” he said.
The board did not take any formal action to vacate the actions of the special meeting.