The Queens Library system is one of the borough’s greatest treasures, but its president and CEO apparently doesn’t fall into the same category.
It’s hard to reconcile images of schoolchildren in southeast Queens lining up outside the central library to use the computers inside while the head of the nonprofit is tooling around town in a sports car paid for by the city.
Queens Library, one of the largest in the country, is the great equalizer in the borough. Its doors are open to rich and poor alike. Visitors from around the world fly in to use the vast business library in Flushing, while immigrants flock to other branches to take ESL courses and children learn about different cultures in weekend events throughout the system.
Overseeing this invaluable network is Thomas Galante, whose annual salary of $392,000 has drawn fire from the City Council and its Queens members. Galante dodged questions about any outside income when he was grilled by the Council during a recent hearing, but days later it was reported that he earned $287,000 as a consultant to a Nassau County school district from 2008-10.
In a letter to Galante asking him to resign, state Sen. Tony Avella said his salary was “out of line” and his outside gig “simply unacceptable.”
The Council members questioned Galante about his salary, which he characterized as “fair,” against the backdrop of his decision to lay off janitorial workers in favor of outsourcing their jobs and to build what has been described as a private smoking deck at the central library.
Borough President Melinda Katz issued a list of recommendations to the library’s board, which sets Galante’s salary, and called for an outside consultant to review the system’s executive compensation. She will appoint half the trustees.
At stake here is whether news about Galante’s compensation and his perks will affect the library’s fund-raising ability.
Former Borough President Helen Marshall, who just retired, directed millions to the upgrading of the library, which is second only to schools as a critical resource for Queens’ cultural life.
But without Marshall in the wings, it’s time for Galante to have a heart-to-heart with himself: Can he continue to lead the library as the public debate swirls around his income and other actions?
Under Katz’s watchful eye, the board of trustees should set new guidelines for outside employment and practices. They owe this to Queens.