By Madina Toure
Elected officials praised the appointment of former city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott as the new president and CEO of the Queens Library. Walcott succeeds former CEO Thomas Galante, who was ousted from his position in December 2014 for allegedly misusing library funds.
Walcott, 64, a lifelong southeast Queens resident, has been serving as the monitor of the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County. He served as chancellor from 2011 through 2013 after working as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for education and community development for more than eight years. He is expected to start his new position in mid-March.
Borough President Katz praised the appointment.
“I have full faith in the direction and future of the library, and look forward to the great things to come under Dennis’ leadership,” Katz said.
City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee and former chief external affairs officer of the Queens Public Library, said he worked with Walcott and his wife, who was a member of the first board of Friends of Cambria Heights Library.
“Mr. Walcott brings to the Queens Library not only the skills gained over an impressive career as the deputy mayor for education and schools chancellor, but also his deep personal love for our borough’s library system,” Van Bramer said.
In September, Galante was placed on indefinite leave as he was being investigated by the FBI, federal prosecutors and the city Department of Investigation over questionable spending on construction projects at the library. Katz and the mayor replaced most of the board.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) pushed forward legislation—which is now law—that sought to reform the library system.
Gianaris declined to comment and Aubry could not be reached for comment.
In November 2015, Galante announced he was planning to sue the library for more than $2 million. He said the library falsely claimed to terminate him for a valid cause to avoid paying him his severance.
A spokeswoman for the Queens Library said it would not comment on the lawsuit.
In a joint statement, Carl Koerner, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, and Judith Bergtraum, vice chairwoman, who served as chairwoman of the board’s search committee, said Walcott was the best candidate.
“We are confident that Dennis Walcott has exactly the right skills and depth of experience to lead the library through the challenging years ahead,” they said.
Walcott said he has been a lifelong patron of the Queens Library and believes in the institution’s mission.
“I look forward to working with all the fantastic, creative, dynamic staff and friends and visiting every community library—meeting and listening to their ideas and participating in initiatives that make life better and richer for their neighborhoods,” Walcott said.
An audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer found that Galante spent nearly $260,000 on prohibited items, such as alcohol, dinners, entertainment and other personal expenses. Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey spent $48,000 in unauthorized purchases of food, beverages and some fuel for her car, according to the audit.
Quinn-Carey said she will return to her role of chief operating officer after Walcott is appointed.
“While one can never say that their work for a constantly evolving and living institution like the Queens Library is ever complete, I am nevertheless satisfied with what we have achieved together and I have decided not to pursue the position of president and CEO,” Quinn-Carey said in a statement she sent to staff members Dec. 16.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour