Opinion 97 - 17


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.


CONFLICTS OF INTEREST -- Financial Disclosure (applicability of county financial disclosure requirements to city and county public library)

COUNTIES -- Powers and Duties (authority to establish financial disclosure requirements for city and county public library)

LIBRARIES -- Public Library (authority to establish financial disclosure requirements)

MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS -- Powers and Duties (authority to establish financial disclosure requirements for city and county public library)

GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, 800(4), (5), 810(1), (3), 811(1); LAWS Of 1953, CHAPTER 768 (MCKINNEY'S UNCONSOLIDATED LAWS, 6211, et seq.): The board of trustees of a city and county public library are authorized to promulgate an annual financial disclosure form for completion and filing by library officers and employees. A county, however, may not require the trustees of a city and county public library to complete and file an annual financial disclosure form promulgated by the county.

You ask whether a county may require the trustees of a "city and county public library" to complete and file an annual financial disclosure form promulgated by the county. If not, you ask whether the library trustees are subject to financial disclosure requirements applicable to State officers.

Article 18 of the General Municipal Law (800 et seq.), as amended by chapter 813 of the Laws of 1987, provides for a system of annual financial disclosure by localities. Insofar as here relevant, section 811(1)(a) of the General Municipal Law authorizes the governing body of any "political subdivision", and any "municipality" which is not a "political subdivision", to adopt a local law, ordinance, or resolution promulgating its own form of annual statement of financial disclosure which is designed to assure disclosure by "municipal officers and employees" of such financial information as is determined necessary by the governing body(1). Any such local enactment must specify by name of office or by title or classification those "municipal officers and employees" required to complete and file the annual statement of financial disclosure (id.). We also note that section 811(1)(c) refers to the completion and filing of such forms or statements by any "local ... officer or employee" (see also General Municipal Law, 811[1][b], referring to "local ... officers and employees").

Article 18 defines the phrase "municipal officer or employee" as "an officer or employee of a municipality, whether paid or unpaid, including members of any administrative board, commission or other agency thereof ... "(General Municipal Law, 800[5]; emphasis supplied). The phrase "local officer or employee" is defined, in relevant part, as "the heads (other than local elected officials) of any agency, department, division, council, board, commission, or bureau of a political subdivision ... " (General Municipal Law, 810(3); emphasis supplied). The term "municipality" includes both a public library and a county (General Municipal Law, 800[4]). The term "political subdivision" includes a county having a population of 50,000 or more (General Municipal Law, 810[1]).

A "city and county public library" is established by the governing board of a county pursuant to chapter 768 of the Laws of 1953, as amended (see McKinney's Unconsolidated Laws, 6211 et seq.). The governing board of a county which establishes a "city and county public library" is authorized to appropriate moneys for library purposes and to appoint the board of trustees of the library (see McKinney's Unconsolidated Laws, 6211, 6212). Such a library, however, is not ordinarily regarded as a branch of county government (Buffalo and Erie County Public Library v County of Erie, 171 AD2d 369, 577 NYS2d 993, affirmed 80 NY2d 938, 591 NYS2d 131; County of Erie v Board of Trustees of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 62 Misc 2d 396, 308 NYS2d 515, affirmed 35 AD2d 782, leave denied 28 NY2d 483, 320 NYS2d 1025; see also Evans v County of Erie, 214 AD2d 1041, 626 NYS2d 910). Instead, it is usually considered to be a separate and distinct corporation which receives budgetary contributions from the county (id.).

Accordingly, since a "city and county public library" is a "public library" (see also Education Law, 253[2]), we believe that such a library is a "municipality" for purposes of article 18. Thus, it is our opinion that the library trustees are authorized promulgate an annual financial disclosure form for completion and filing by library officers and employees.

In addition, since a "city and county public library" is not ordinarily regarded as a branch of county government, we believe that the library trustees are not county officers or employees for purposes of article 18. Therefore, it is also our opinion that a county may not require the trustees of a "city and county public library" to complete and file an annual financial disclosure form promulgated by the county.

As to whether the library trustees are subject to financial disclosure requirements applicable to State officers, we note that section 73-a of the Public Officers Law governs financial disclosure by State officers and employees and that the State Ethics Commission is expressly authorized to render advisory opinions on, among other things, the requirements of that section (Executive Law, 94[15]). Therefore, we suggest contacting the State Ethics Commission with respect to the applicability of section 73-a to the trustees of a "city and county public library".

September 29, 1997
Alan P. Gerstman, Esq., lst Asst. County Attorney
Erie County

1. In the event that a "political subdivision" failed to adopt a local enactment requiring use of an authorized form of annual statement of financial disclosure by January 1, 1991, the financial disclosure requirements of section 812 became applicable to that political subdivision (General Municipal Law, 811[2]). Section 812 provides that such a "political subdivision" must require, among other things, that each of its "local officers and employees" file the annual statement of financial disclosure prescribed in that section (General Municipal Law, 812[1][a]).