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Add Two More to Library Board

Mayor & Beep Continue Filling Vacancies

Two vacant seats on the Queens Borough Public Library’s board of trustees were filled last week.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced last Friday, Sept. 5, her selection of Earl G. Simons, director of government and community relations for York College in Jamaica, to the panel that oversees Queens Library’s operations. Three days earlier, on Tuesday, Sept. 2, Mayor Bill de Blasio named Martha Baker, founder of Equity in Education and Employment, to the board.

Simons and Baker are the newest members to the board since July, when de Blasio and Katz ousted eight trustees amid ongoing turmoil regarding Queens Library’s operations.

A resident of Cambria Heights, Simons is responsible for organizing various events at York College and securing federal, state and local funding for the institution, according to Katz. He previously served in the Manhattan Borough President’s office as director of budget and grants, overseeing various capital and expense budget programs.

Equity in Education and Employment, as the Mayor’s office described, “provides program design, advocacy and training to improve opportunities for women and girls.” Baker, a Fresh Meadows resident, “has worked locally and at the national level to secure leave policies that support working families and promote women in the workplace.”

She is also the former executive director and CEO at Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), which promotes jobs for women in the industrial and construction industries. Baker also served under then- Mayor David Dinkins as executive director of the Commission on the Status of Women and was the deputy director of operations at the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

There are now four vacant seats remaining on the Queens Library board of trustees; by law, because Katz and de Blasio alternate in making appointments, the borough president has the next selection. The mayor and borough president split appointment duties on the 19-member board.

De Blasio is scheduled to make the next selection to fill the vacancy left by Maryann Mattone, who resigned following the July purge. After Mattone’s seat is filled, Katz will fill the remaining seats, each of which were previous Queens borough president appointees.

The vacancies were created in July through state legislation enacted the previous month which grants the mayor and borough president authority to remove trustees.

Previously, only the board of trustees had the authority, by a two-thirds vote, to discharge one of its members.

The Queens Library board of trustees drew the ire of Katz and other lawmakers earlier this year on two votes regarding the fate of its president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante, and complying with City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s audit.

In April, the board of trustees deadlocked 9-9 on a resolution that would have forced Galante into a leave of absence pending the results of investigations into his practices. Galante came under fire earlier this year after reports surfaced that he received a nearly $400,000 annual salary and authorized a six-figure renovation of his Jamaica office even as the library cut staff and services following funding reductions.

Questions also surfaced regarding Galante earning a sixfigure salary while working as a part-time consultant for the Elmont Union Free School District in Nassau County. There were also concerns about how Queens Library selected contractors to perform certain services.

Along with Stringer, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Department of Investigation each launched probes into Queens Library’s practices.

Then in May, the trustees agreed to provide Stringer with financial information in accordance with a 1997 pact it had with then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Stringer, seeking full financial disclosure of the library’s finances, has since gone to court seeking to have that pact invalidated.

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.

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