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Library board extends three votes to Carnegie council members

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Carnegie borough officials — who are appointed as ex officio members to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall board of trustees — again will have voting privileges on that board.

The library's bylaws allow for three borough council members to be named to the historic library's board, which can range from seven to 12 members. Council members had voting rights on the library board until a 2008 change to the bylaws.

“It caused some fallout,” said library Executive Director Maggie Forbes. “They had had that vote since 1901 — 107 years.”

The board decided in 2008 that having council members as voting library board members was a conflict of interest. Forbes stressed that this was the only reason for the amendment.

“It wasn't for any other reason than someone presenting it as a conflict of interest, since we ask them (borough council) for funding,” she said. Carnegie provides $30,000 annually, plus public works services, to the library.

The amendment restoring the voting rights was finalized on Nov. 20, and the 9-1 vote was finalized via email on Nov. 27.

The amended bylaws allow that “an ex officio shall have full privileges of board membership, except ex officio members may not serve as an officer of the board.”

Ex officio members are appointed yearly by Carnegie's council and mayor.

Library board member and Carnegie attorney Karyn Rok said after a tumultuous few years, she and others wanted to bring council members' voices back to the votes.

“When it comes to who is the expert, who better than the council people?” she said.

The library cycled through three executive directors and an interim between 2011 and early 2013 before Forbes returned. In April 2012, the borough council began placing its monthly payments to the library in escrow because of leadership and financial concerns. Council released the money and resumed payments in September 2012.

“I was so happy to see the council, when all of that was happening, they stayed involved,” Rok said. “I decided we needed to make a few changes, and one of them was restoring their voting rights.”

Forbes said she was “thrilled” with the change.

“It's one thing having a voice and having a say, but they should also have a vote,” she said. “Otherwise, it's just window dressing if you don't get the vote. It's a responsibility both ways.”

Carnegie Council President Rick D'Loss, who first was appointed to the library board in 2009, said it is appropriate for the appointed council members to have a vote.

“We do give the library money,” he said. “We are an interested party.” In addition to D'Loss, council members Sue Demko and Pat Catena currently serve on the library board.

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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