Queens Library board deadlocks on vote to suspend Galante

By Rich Bockmann

In a special session Thursday evening, the Queens Library board of trustees deadlocked on a motion to force embattled President Thomas Galante to step down temporarily from his job.

“Thomas W. Galante will continue his work leading the Queens Library,” the library said in a statement released Friday morning.

Thursday’s vote followed Borough President Melinda Katz’s call Monday for Galante to take a leave of absence following more than two months of criticism over the nonprofit 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 this budget cycle, and the library will suffer, which is an outcome nobody wants.”

The library declined a request for comment on Katz’s statement.

Katz is not the first Queens leader to call for Galante to step aside.

Following the borough president’s request, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) doubled down on the call he made for Galante to resign after a special City Council oversight committee grilled him on his $391,549 salary and the library’s spending on construction projects while he was 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 Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) in a letter about his income from an outside job.

Crowley did not weigh in on Galante’s future with the library, but said the nonprofit’s CEO should be held to a higher standard of transparency.

“For the protection of our tax dollars, people like Mr. Galante, with the power to award city-funded contracts, must be held to the [city Conflict of Interest Board] standard of transparency,” she wrote in an e-mail to the TimesLedger. “This is not unreasonable.”

Katz also wrote a similar letter to the library’s board of trustees, asking that it take action on her request at its meeting this week.

“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.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) planned to make an announcement Thursday on proposed legislation that would reform the library.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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