Mayor, Beep Name Two To Lib. Board
Following last month’s purge of eight Queens Borough Public Library trustees, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz began refilling seats this past week.
De Blasio made the first nomination last Friday, Aug. 15, naming Jukay Hsu of Flushing to serve as a trustee. Hsu, an Iraq War veteran, founded the Coalition for Queens, a nonprofit aimed at expanding technology, entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the borough.
Then on Tuesday, Aug. 19, Katz picked Robert Santos of Sunnyside Gardens to serve on the library board. Santos is the City College of New York vice president for campus planning and facilities management and previously held assistant and deputy commissioner posts with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Parks Department.
By law, the mayor and borough president alternate nominations to the board of trustees.
Last month, de Blasio and Katz removed a combined eight Queens Library trustees in the wake of scandals surrounding the library’s president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante. The removals-six by Katz, two by de Blasio-were made through new powers granted in recently passed state legislation; previously, only a two-thirds majority of Queens Library trustees could remove one of its own members.
Earlier this year, Galante came under fire after published reports surfaced that he received a nearly $400,000 annual salary and authorized a six-figure renovation of his office, even as Queens Library trimmed staff and service due to funding reductions.
Questions also arose about the process by which Queens Library selects outside contractors to perform certain services.
The FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, the Department of Investigation and City Comptroller Scott Stringer have since launched separate investigations into Queens Library’s operations. Along the way, the library’s trustees bristled with Katz and other elected officials who demanded reform and greater transparency.
In April, the trustees deadlocked 9-9 on a resolution that would have forced Galante into a leave of absence pending the results of the ongoing investigations against him. Then in May, the trustees approved another resolution agreeing to disclose to Stringer financial information in accordance with a 1997 agreement it had with then- City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Stringer, who seeks Queens Library’s full financial disclosure for his audit, filed litigation seeking to have the agreement nullified.
Seven of the eight ousted trustees voted to keep Galante on the job and in favor of the May disclosure resolution; one member left the room during the April vote, but voted for the May resolution.
The six trustees that Katz removed filed a federal lawsuit against the borough president, the city and state charging their dismissal was unconstitutional. A federal judge last week recommended denial of an injunction blocking their removal and a temporary restraining order restoring them to the board immediately.