Stringer Questions Library’s Spending

Wants Trustees To Address Lavish Expenses

From extravagant dinners to concert tickets and sports memorabilia, the Queens Borough Public Library made a host of questionable purchases at the public’s expense, the city’s financial watchdog claimed in a letter to the library’s Board of Trustees last week.

Writing in his capacity as a non-voting member of the board, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in his Oct. 1 letter to the trustees, stated he was “deeply troubled by the nature and possibly excessive amount of many expenditures” after auditors reviewed financial documents the board provided to his office last month.

The documents, Stringer stated, were “some of the records that the library has not yet produced to the auditors,” including “general ledger payments from fiscal years 2008 to 2013 and credit card statements for fiscal year 2013.”

As previously reported, the trustees authorized in September full compliance with Stringer’s audit of Queens Library, commenced earlier this year after questions arose over the library’s finances under the leadership of Thomas W. Galante, currently on a leave of absence pending the results of ongoing investigations.

In May, the trustees voted to provide Stringer with documents in accordance with the 1997 agreement it had with then-City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Stringer went to court to have the agreement nullified, thereby compelling the trustees to fully open its books to his office.

The board changed its mind during its September vote after Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz removed eight trustees who voted for the May resolution and declined in April to place Galante on leave. The new trustees also voted in September to temporarily and conditionally relieve Galante of his duties.

According to Stringer, Galante used Queens Library funds to make “multiple charges for room service, guest rooms, minibar items, ‘sky lounge’ purchases, snacks and movies” while traveling out-of-town.

Additionally, the library purchased “dinners for trustees, including some senior management, occurring at least once a month generally following board meetings, costing an average of approximately $1,000 each.”

Those who participated in the dinners apparently ate and drank well, Stringer noted, as the charges included “numerous cocktails and wines and expensive entrées, including filet mignon, porterhouse steaks and soft shell crab.”

Additionally, Stringer noted, there were also “charges for at least 60 outings for meals at restaurants reported as work meetings that were attended only by library staff.”

Queens Library also authorized purchases of between $2,000 and $3,275 for an imported English mahogany Carleton desk; and $235 for autographed memorabilia signed by former New York Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson and former Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, listed as a “president’s office decoration.”

As baseball fans know, Wilson hit the ground ball that went through Buckner’s legs and drove in the winning run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

The report also indicated that Queens Library purchased four tickets to a Maroon 5 concert, priced at $1,962.95, as an “employee appreciation” gift.

“The potential impropriety of these charges, as well as some limited and inconsistent amounts of supporting documentation accompanying the credit card statements available for inspection, suggests, at a minimum, that the library lacks adequate policies and fiscal controls,” Stringer wrote to the board.

“Although we await the findings and recommendations of a formal audit, the information that has just been provided reflects a disturbing pattern of expenditures, and I urge the board to direct the library to immediately promulgate responsible policies that will ensure fiscal practices,” he concluded.

Stringer requested that the trustees tackle the matter at its Oct. 23 meeting.