Judge dismissed removed Queens library trustees’ suit against Katz

By Sarina Trangle

A federal judge dismissed six former Queens Library trustees’ lawsuit seeking to reverse their removal from the board at the borough president’s hands, court documents show.

Judge Frederic Block dismissed the case from Brooklyn federal court Wednesday because the plaintiffs and defendants stopped submitting documents and neither sought a summary judgment, according to a court notice.

Borough President Melinda Katz heralded the judge’s decision.

“This lawsuit was a bitter attempt by the removed trustees at personal retaliation devoid of consideration for the public interest,” Katz said. “The court’s action underscores just how specious their claims were, and I am gratified this has finally been dismissed from official course of business.”

Six deposed trustees took their bid to get their posts back to court this summer. The group maintained Katz dismissed them for standing by embattled Queens Library President Thomas Galante.

Their case described Katz’s reaction to a series of reports alleging fiscal mismanagement and questioning Galante’s external income 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.”

The trustees’ lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Katz worked with state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) to pass legislation that would give the government more control of the library’s management, which Katz said was needed to ensure its leaders were accountable to patrons.

Under the new law, Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed eight trustees July 23.

Those who sued said they appealed directly to Katz before filing the case in August.

The federal judge who was initially assigned to the case, Roslynn Mauskopf, removed herself in mid-August because of her friendship with a justice the library hired to conduct an internal whistleblower investigation.

Removed trustee George Stamatiades filed a whistleblower complaint to the board in July after months of reports detailing allegations of fiscal mismanagement at the non-profit and revelations about Galante’s $392,000 salary.

“As time went on, confidential information about the board’s deliberations, much of which was mischaracterized, began to be leaked,” Stamatiades said in court papers. “The information turned up in a steady stream of negative stories in the Daily News, which before long began to echo [Borough President Melinda] Katz’s complaints about Galante’s stewardship of the library.”

Queens Library launched a probe into the leaks six days before the trustees were removed, according to court papers.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at stran‌gle@c‌ngloc‌al.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.