Judge dismisses ousted Queens Library trustees’ lawsuit against BP Katz

Photo courtesy of Queens Library/File photo

Updated at 5:06 p.m.

A federal judge granted the request of six former trustees of the Queens Library to dismiss their lawsuit that challenged Borough President Melinda Katz’s decision to remove them from the board last summer.

The firings came after a battle over the tenure of library director Tom Galante, who was criticized after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica as well as revelations that he augmented his $400,000 salary with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, L.I., school district.

Katz lauded the dismissal of the lawsuit, which she called “a bitter attempt by the removed trustees at personal retaliation devoid of consideration for the public interest.”

According to one of the lawyers representing the former trustees, the lawsuit was dismissed because the former trustees didn’t have the financial ability and emotional willpower to pursue the lawsuit. But, in a prepared statement, Katz said that the lawsuit was dropped based on its lack of merit.

The court’s action underscores just how specious their claims were,” she said. 

Hillary Prudlo, one of the lawyers representing the former trustees, disagreed with Katz’s assessment, pointing out that the court documents tell a different story.

“[Katz] gives the disingenuous impression that the judge denied the suit on its merits,” she said. “Her attacks on [the former trustees] had an emotional impact on them, and ultimately it just didn’t make sense for them to pursue this.”

Katz dismissed six members, and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members in July.

The eight members cut loose were Joseph R. Ficalora, Jacqueline E. Arrington, Patricia Flynn, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri C. Mangino, George Stamatiades and Stephen Van Anden.

Van Anden and Flynn were the mayoral appointees.

One of the trustees fired by Katz, who wished to remain anonymous, called the move “politics at its worst.” And in the lawsuit that Judge Frederic Block of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York struck down, the former board of trustees members called the ousting a “brazen and unconstitutional power grab.”

The six plaintiffs also demand unspecified monetary damages against Katz—including punitive damages—“on account of the egregious nature of the unconstitutional violations and Katz’s malicious and punitive conduct in publicly smearing plaintiffs in order to aggrandize herself,” according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

But this is not the end of the court battle over the firings. The ousted board members have filed a separate “whistleblowers” claim.



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