By Rich Bockmann
Borough President Melinda Katz delivered a list of recommendations to the Queens Library’s board of trustees in response to the ever-growing controversy enveloping library President Thomas Galante over executive compensation.
Katz, who will appoint half of the library’s trustees, wrote a letter earlier this week to board Chairman Gabriel Taussig listing her recommendations after a series of news articles revealed Galante receives a $392,000 annual salary and a sports car, made questionable renovations to the central library in Jamaica and earned more than $280,000 in outside income over a two-year period as a consultant to a Long Island school district — all at a time when the library outsourced union custodial jobs to low-paying contractors.
“As you know, the recent articles detailing the executive director’s salary, benefits, perks and build-out of his executive office space have turned my attention toward looking deeper into the operation of the institution,” Katz wrote.
The borough president asked that at its Feb. 20 meeting the board set a fixed term of employment for Galante and hire an outside consultant to review the library’s executive compensation.
Katz also said she would like the board to “appropriately limit” the type and extent of outside employment the library’s executive director and key personnel can engage in.
The board’s chairman said the trustees have held a special meeting to discuss the issues and planned to take action at their next meeting.
“Queens Library fully supports transparency and accountability,” Taussig said in a statement. “It is the best way to preserve the tremendous value the library provides to the community and to serve their best interests and to preserve the bond of trust the library has with our stakeholders.”
The library is a nonprofit that receives the bulk of its funding from taxpayer dollars, and Galante has been under fire ever since his large salary was revealed.
At an oversight hearing before the City Council earlier this month, the library executive testified that his executive compensation was set when he was hired in 2005 based on a comparison to the earnings of the heads at 30 other educational, arts and cultural institutions in the city.
He was, however, elusive when it came to disclosing whether or not he earned any outside income — saying only that the library does not prohibit any employee from holding a second job — and visibly ruffled the feathers of some of the lawmakers the library relies on for funding.
Last week, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called on Galante to step down, but the library’s board of directors released a statement in support of the embattled executive.
Katz also said she would like to see the board comply with a set of nonprofit best practices the state signed into law taking effect this July that will require the library to create an audit and a labor relations committee and require financial disclosures from key employees.
“Faith must be restored in our library system and the board of trustees must act swiftly to do its part to restore the trust that has been lost before any more damage is done to an institution that has given the city so much,” the borough president wrote.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.