By Juan Soto
A month after firing Thomas Galante as CEO and president of the Queens Library and the recent resignation of five of his top aides, the nonprofit is writing a new chapter.
“We are creating a new culture of openness and transparency, while continuing the library’s legacy of customer service,” said Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s interim president. “A change in direction often requires a change in administration. This was necessary in order for the library to move forward.”
She added that “2015 will be a year of rebuilding and team building.”
Galante had been placed on indefinite leave in September after his alleged misuse of funds came to light, but he was still being paid his $392,000 annual salary. Galante’s dismissal came after an audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer reviewed his expense accounts, which included expensive furniture and lavish meals.
Borough President Melinda Katz said Tuesday, at an unrelated news conference, that “transparency is being reinstituted at the library.” Katz noted that one month into her first term as president of Queens, news broke about Galante’s alleged misuse of the nonprofit’s funds.
“I called the board of trustees to see how these expenses were approved, and some trustee members didn’t even have that information,” Katz said.
She also said that she was surprised when finding out she did not have the authority to remove trustees.
The library declined to identify the five aides who resigned, citing personnel confidentiality. The borough president, through a spokesman, also refused to name them, saying the library is not part of her office.
The audit by Stringer found the library spent thousands of dollars on luxurious meals, expensive furniture and even Maroon 5 concert tickets.
Stringer pointed out the audit alleges that in fiscal year 2013, the library bought monthly dinners for trustees and senior management, which cost an average of $1,000. More than 60 meals were bought for internal library staff and booked as work meetings.
Stringer called for an overhaul of the library’s fiscal policies as many of these questionable expenses also lacked supporting documentation.
In response to the scandal, Katz noted, the state Legislature passed the Gianaris/Aubry bill to rein in the excesses and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law in June.
“Transparency is the best disinfectant,” Katz said, adding that since the legislation was approved, she and Mayor Bill de Blasio were able to removed eight of the 19 trustee members. A ninth one resigned.
“Queens Library has entered into a new era,” said the nonprofit’s interim president. “Along with the board, elected officials and other stakeholders, the people of Queens can look forward the best Queens Library ever.”
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.