The final chapter of the Thomas Galante era at the Queens Borough Public Library is finally complete.
The library and Galante, its former president who was fired amid scandal in December 2014, have settled a wrongful termination lawsuit that he previously filed, it was announced on Monday night, Nov. 7.
Queens Library will pay $1.5 million in legal fees and other damages to Galante, who had led the system for 20 years. Galante filed the lawsuit a year ago, claiming he was let go for political reasons rather than job performance or proof of wrongdoing.
Galante, who had originally sought $7.2 million in damages, will receive $300,000, with his lawyers and others working on the case getting the rest of the settlement. About half of the total settlement is covered by Queens Library’s insurance coverage.
“It’s in the best interest of this institution and the public to put our time and resources towards our future, rather than litigate this matter to conclusion,” said Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott in a statement. “I look forward to continuing our work of providing outstanding service to all of our customers.”
In an interview with QNS, Galante expressed relief that the struggle was finally over, noting that he had worked 12 hours a day to help defend himself.
“It feels good to have this over with,” Galante said. “I defended myself and stood up for former board members. … It closes a chapter with the library. I hope it goes forward in a great way and does well.”
In January 2014, reports surfaced that Galante allegedly spent library funds on personal expenses, including a six-figure renovation of his Jamaica office, at a time when the library was forced to reduce staffing and services over funding cuts. This led to several investigations and calls from public officials that Galante to either resign or be removed from office.
The Queens Library board of trustees initially balked at making a change, prompting anger from local lawmakers. Legislation was drafted and passed in the State Legislature to grant the mayor and borough president — the two officials responsible for appointing trustees — the authority to also remove board members.
Eight trustees who voted not to suspend Galante were subsequently removed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz. New members were appointed to the board, which ultimately voted in September 2014 to suspend Galante, then terminate him from his duties that December.