Library Bd. Delays Meeting On CEO’s Fate
Queens Library’s Board of Trustees postponed its meeting last Thursday, June 26, after it was reported they were about to force out the library’s president and CEO-with a big severance package.
The New York Daily News reported that morning that trustees would vote to relieve Thomas W. Galante of his duties and provide him with a nearly $800,000 compensation package to continue serving Queens Library as a consultant.
Galante came under fire earlier this year for collecting a nearly $400,000 annual salary and authorizing a six-figure renovation of his Jamaica office while the library system reduced staff and services due to government funding cuts. Questions also arose as to the library’s selection of private contractors to perform certain serivces.
Gabriel Taussig, who chairs the library’s board of trustees, charged the report was “inaccurate” in a press release issued last Thursday afternoon, claiming it was “a confidential draft of a proposed agreement” provided to members “as the first step in an effort to begin a conversation on the conditions of a possible transition of leadership at the library.”
Taussig blasted unnamed trustees who allegedly leaked word of the supposed deal to the press.
“It is disturbing that there appear to be members of the board who believe that it is acceptable for them to attempt to achieve their goals by disclosing information they know to be confidential and thus breaching one of their fundamental fiduciary responsibilities as trustees,” Taussig charged.
Seven trustees, according to information provided by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s office, declared they would not act “in good faith” to negotiate “a new contract with” Galante. The trustees-identified as Michael Rodriguez, Haeda Mihaltses, Ed Sadowsky, Matthew Gorton, Maria Cocolino, Julissa Gutierrez and Judy Bergtraum-stated their intentions in a letter to Taussig last Monday, June 23.
In light of that development, Taussig moved to cancel the meeting, telling The New York Times last Friday it was done after confidentiality about the meeting’s agenda was broken.
Prior to the board ultimately cancelling its meeting last Thursday, Katz ripped the proposal and claimed Queens Library was trying to “beat the clock” on state reform legislation scheduled to take effect in the days ahead.
One piece of legislation included a bill Katz authored with Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and State Sen. Michael Gianaris to impose various measures reforming Queens Library’s operations, including giving the mayor and Queens borough president enhanced control over the board of trustees. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law last Thursday, days after it was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly and State Senate.
Another law, the Non-Profit RevitalizationAct, “would set higher standards that would prohibit Mr. Galante from negotiating his own golden parachute,” Katz charged.
“This is another painful example of how several of the trustees of this board have consistently blocked any sort of good governance or increased oversight reforms,” Katz said. The board of trustees previously deadlocked on an April resolution forcing Galante to take a leave of absence and, in May, agreed to provide City Comptroller Scott Stringer with financial information according to terms in an 1997 agreement between the library and then-City Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Stringer, seeking full financial disclosure from Queens Library for his audit, filed a lawsuit asking the courts to rescind the 1997 agreement. In addition to the comptroller’s audit, the FBI, the Justice Department and the Department of Investigation have each launched their own inquiries into Queens Library.
A Queens Library representative did not indicate when the trustees would meet again, but noted it would provide public notice once a meeting is scheduled.