Ask Joe Eisner: “In municipal libraries, which board can establish leave policies for employees?”

Featured Question and Answer by Joe Eisner

Q. In municipal libraries established by a town or village, which board has the authority to establish leave policies governing library employees?

A. When asked whether the town board or the library board of trustees has the authority to establish sick leave and vacation plans for library employees, the Comptroller stated: “As a general rule, the town library board of trustees, and not the town board, has the authority to appoint and dismiss library personnel (Education Law, s226(7), 260; 30 Opns St Compt 1974, p. 98). The library board exercises direct control and supervision over library personnel and, for most purposes, including labor negotiations under the Taylor Law (Civil Service Law, ss200, et seq.), the library board is considered to be the employer of library personnel (County of Erie v Board of Trustees, 62 Misc 2d 396, 308 NYS2d 515; Binghamton Public Library Unit v City of Binghamton, 69 Misc 2d 1005, 331 NYS2d 515,, Opns St Comp, 1972, No. 72-402, unreported; cf. Retirement and Social Security Law, s30(c); Opns St. Comp, 1980, No. 80-199, as yet unreported; Finkelstein v Central School District, 34 AD2d 781, 311 NYS2d 243 affd NY2d 705, 320 NYS2d 751). Compensation for library personnel is fixed by the library board and paid from the library fund (Education Law, ss226(7), 259(1). It would then follow that, as between the town board and the library board, it is the library board which determines the vacation and sick leave benefits for library employees. It is our opinion that a library board of trustees has implied authority to provide for sick leaves and vacations for library employees (see Opinion No. 80-199, supra; 1961 Atty Genl [(Inf Opns] 105; Education Law s226(7), 260….” (Op State Compt 81-431, 1981).

The issue of control of personnel in municipally established libraries not unique – many municipal public libraries have struggled with the fact that, while both village and town library boards are independent Regents corporations, their municipal sponsors consider them as departments of village government whose personnel are village employees under control of the town or village. Where that is the case, it is with acquiescence of the library board, and not based on any statutory authority, as indicated by the citations in the above Op State Compt 81-431 and a host of other similar opinions of the Comptroller.

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