Eight trustees of the Queens Library were banished from the board in a sudden email blitz Wednesday.
Six members were dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members.
The eight members cut loose were Joseph R. Ficalora, Jacqueline E. Arrington, Patricia Flynn, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri C. Mangino, George Stamatiades and Stephen Van Anden.
Van Anden and Flynn were the mayoral appointees.
One of the trustees fired by Katz, who wished to remain anonymous, called the move “politics at its worst.”
“I got a letter emailed to me today,” the former trustee said. “I’m not surprised. I’m okay. I’m not shocked; I was waiting for it.”
The firings came after a protracted battle over the tenure of library director Tom Galante, who drew fire after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica as well as revelations that he augmented his $400,000 salary with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, L.I., school district.
Lawmakers reacted strongly and recently enacted legislation gave politicians the power to summarily remove board members.
Brinkmanship ensued after the bill passed as trustees attempted to organize a hurried meeting that would have seen Galante resign in exchange for an 18-month, $800,000 consultancy.
“These six trustees merited removal because they failed in their duty to properly oversee the finances of the Queens Library, which receives more than 85 percent of its funding from government sources,” Katz said in a statement. “They also failed to adequately protect and preserve the Library’s resources and physical property by voting to block the New York City Comptroller’s legitimate efforts to obtain Library financial information and to audit the Library’s funding streams.”
Katz and Public Advocate Letitia James protested the move loudly and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman intervened, warning the members against the move, according to published reports.
But even James, who was an outspoken critic of Galante, said in a statement after the purge that the library was one of the best in the country but that it was important to get past the “distractions.”
“As a trustee of the Queens Borough Public Library, I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for their swift action on removing trustees from the library board. These changes will ensure more accountability and improve the delivery of library services for 2.3 million Queens residents,” James said in a statement. “In light of recent distractions, it is important that the library return to its main mission of serving all residents, particularly our children, seniors and English-language learners.”
The anonymous ousted trustee felt the cull was more about Katz’s ambition than the library system.
“I think she just got her dander up and there she goes,” the former trustee said. “It’s part of her master plan to have control of the borough. There was no gratitude, no graciousness. We do this because we love our community, love our neighborhoods, love Queens.”
The library released a statement lauding the departing trustees.
“Throughout the history of the Queens Borough Public Library, the people of Queens have benefited enormously from a highly committed library board of trustees whose leadership has helped keep libraries open and free,” the statement read. “They have helped make Queens Library a recognized national model of excellence.”
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