By Rich Bockmann
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called on Queens Library President Thomas Galante to take a leave of absence Monday following more than two months of criticism over the non-profit executive’s compensation and the library’s operations.
“In order for the library to operate effectively and more importantly, to continue to receive taxpayer money, I believe it is best for the institution that you take a leave of absence effective immediately, and continuing until the various investigations and audits into the Library’s operations are resolved,” she wrote in a letter dated March 31.
The library receives the majority of its funding from the city budget and allocations made by elected officials, and Katz said she was concerned that as the city works through its budget process she was afraid the library would get short changed due to the controversy.
“Elected officials must have faith in the integrity of the institution and its leadership in order for the library to continue to receive city money,” she wrote. “Given the current state of uncertainty and turmoil, I don’t believe you will be able to successfully lead the institution through his budget cycle, and the library will suffer, which is an outcome nobody wants.”
The library declined a TimesLedger Newspapers request for comment.
Katz is not the first Queens leader to call for Galante to step aside.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the CEO, who earns a salary of $391,549, should resign after a special City Council oversight committee grilled Galante on his compensation and the library’s spending on construction projects while outsourcing union custodial jobs.
Since then Galante has been under close watch with the city comptroller conducting a high-profile audit of the library’s operations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking into construction contracts the city awarded to an associate of Galante’s at the Elmont School District.
Over the weekend a Daily News report claimed records obtained from the Nassau County school district where Galante works as a consultant show he billed his second job for an average of 28 days a month, seemingly contradicting what he had told city Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) in a letter regarding his income from an outside job.
Katz also wrote a similar letter to the library’s board of trustees, asking that it take action on her request at its April 3 meeting.
“As an elected official charged with allocating taxpayer dollars, I must ensure they are appropriated wisely — and I cannot do that while the library’s sitting president faces a federal investigation,” she wrote.
“I know the board agrees that ensuring the library’s continued operation, growth and success, along with its constant funding, must be our highest priority,” she continued. “I believe that these goals can only now be achieved by temporarily removing Tom from leadership.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.