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Fired library trustees take Katz to court on dismissals

By Alex Robinson

Borough President Melinda Katz has rejected the appeal of six members of the Queens Library trustees to get their posts back after she dismissed them for standing by embattled President Thomas Galante.

The deposed trustees filed a lawsuit against Katz in Brooklyn federal court last week for what they described as “a brazen, and unconstitutional, power grab by the Queens borough president, with the aid of the state Legislature, to transform the Queens Borough Public Library from an independent, private, nonprofit corporation into an organ of city government controlled by the Queens borough president and mayor.”

They also appealed their removal directly to Katz after she and Mayor Bill de Blasio used powers granted to them by a new state law to fire eight trustees July 23.

Katz rejected their appeals Tuesday.

“The unfortunate truth is that your actions, along with the actions of Mr. Galante, have led to ill-will, created n atmosphere of public distrust and have cased the public outcry, outrage and demand for reform,” Katz wrote in letters to the fired trustees.

Papers filed on behalf of Katz urged the court to drop the lawsuit.

“The mayor and borough president, as elected officials responsible for the library, are entitled to appoint a board that has a consensus behind reforming the library and cooperating with the ongoing investigations,” the court papers said. “The plaintiffs stand in the way of accountability and transparency.”

The six trustees voted against a motion that would oust Galante, who has been the subject of multiple investigations following allegations of fiscal mismanagement and questions concerning his external income.

They also voted down a measure which would have opened the library’s books to city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who launched an audit of the nonprofit’s finances.

The trustees’ lawsuit claimed Katz was “fixated on getting rid of Galante” from early on in her term in office.

“After dismissing the trustees, it’s hardly surprising that the borough president rejected their appeal,” said Doug Grover, a lawyer representing the trustees. “It’s one more reason the court must step in and halt the damage Ms. Katz has already done to the library and the further damage that would surely follow.

“For more than a century the library has provided excellent service to the community, free from political interference and favoritism. She wants to toss that aside, using an ill-conceived law that we believe is unconstitutional. The threat to the independence of the Queens Library should be of concern to every nonprofit group in New York and to every citizen.”

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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