By Alex Robinson
Following months of turmoil at Queens Library, embattled President Thomas Galante has been forced to step down temporarily.
The nonprofit’s board of trustees voted to suspend Galante last week with pay, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit said.
Galante has come under fire since a number of Daily News reports revealed allegations about improper construction spending on a smoking deck attached to the president’s office. Questions have also followed Galante about his plush $392,000 salary in addition to outside income he received as a school superintendent.
As the FBI and city Department of Investigation initiated probes into the spending allegations in early 2014, Borough President Melinda Katz called on Galante to take a leave of absence.
The library’s board of trustees, however, failed to pass a motion that would force Galante to step down.
Katz then approached lawmakers in the state Legislature to pass a law, which sought to make the library more transparent and gave the borough president and mayor new powers to remove board members before the end of their terms.
Once the bill became law, a purge of eight members who supported Galante followed.
“I am pleased that the Queens Library’s board of trustees voted to place Queens Library President and CEO Thomas Galante on a leave of absence,” Katz said last week. “This action will allow for the newly appointed board to take immediate steps to improve the Queens Library’s governance and increase the transparency of its operations without any unjustified interference from Mr. Galante.”
The board also voted to provide information on all its accounts to city Comptroller Scott Stringer for an audit he launched. Before Katz and de Blasio removed the rogue members, the board had voted against opening up the library’s books.
“The newly reconstituted Queens Library board of trustees has ended months of frustration and misdirection by voting tonight to open its books for my office’s review,” Stringer said last Thursday. “My audit will seek to tell the full story behind what has been a sordid series of reports of alleged poor governance and irresponsible spending at the Queens Library. Placing President and CEO Thomas Galante on administrative leave is a necessary step to move the library forward toward comprehensive governance reforms.”
The board also appointed Bridget Quinn-Carey, a seasoned librarian and the current executive vice president of the library, as the interim president.
“Queens Library has a critical mission to provide information and education,” Quinn-Carey said. “It has long been a model of excellence. I look forward to working with the board of trustees, our elected officials and colleagues at all levels of the organization, including our union, to build on the library’s outstanding work. There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.