According to the audit released by Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Queens Public Library CEO Thomas Galante and other executives spent over $300,000 on prohibited personal items. Some of the purchases discovered in the audit included Apple TVs, tickets to see Maroon 5, trips to Disneyland, alcohol at casinos and airline upgrades.
“[The audit documents] tell a cautionary tale of what happens when there’s no oversight,” Stringer said at a press conference in Astoria.
He explained that in 1997 a new deal was passed that made it hard for the comptroller’s office to audit the financial records of the library, making it easier for the executives to hide the expenses.
In 2014, after he was elected, Stringer sued to have the books opened. At the end of that year, the newly constituted library board – appointed by Borough President Melinda Katz and
New state legislation in 2014, sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry and State Senator Michael Gianaris, made it easier for Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio to change the members of the library's Board of Trustees.
The largely new board fired Galante and turned the library's financial records over to the comptroller for review.
Katz said she was happy with the library moving in the right direction after the audit.
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Katz said in a statement. “The Board of Trustees continues to move the library in the right direction consistent with its educational purpose.”
Stringer said the former library board failed to properly control the spending of the executives.
“This audit found that the Queens Library failed to ensure that adequete financial controls were in place to properly allocate and expend its resources,” Stringer wrote in his report.
In addition to some of the luxury expenses, the audit found that while Galante was being paid for 40-hour work weeks with the library, he was also billing a school district in Long Island for consulting work – a process known as “double dipping.”
He is also accused of failing to disclose business ties and billing for other fraudulent expenses, like multiple charges at a gas station in a single day, indicating that he may have been fueling other people's vehicles.
“Once we were able to look at all of the library’s accounts, our audit uncovered a sickening track record of waste, fraud and abuse,” Stringer said. “Tom Galante used the Queens Library as his personal piggy bank.”
It was also found that while eliminating service and cutting operating hours due to budget constraints, executive salaries rose. It fact, Stringer found that executive compensation rose 6.9 percent from fiscal years 2008-13, while service staff salaries were cut by 2.8 percent.
Stringer said he would leave the potential of any criminal charges up to the proper authorities.
Since the firing of Galante and the reconstruction of the board, the library is taking careful measures to insure similar lapses don't happen again.
"The current board takes its duty to the public very seriously, and expects management to do the same,” said board chair Carl Koerner. “We've opened the library's books to stricter outside scrutiny, we've enforced greater internal accountability and we've ended excessive, unquestioned over-expenditures by management and staff.”
Interim chief executive officer Bridget Quinn-Carey, who replaced Galante, still holds her role, but the audit raises some questions about spending on her credit accounts as well.
According to the audit, more than $16,000 was charged to Quinn-Carey’s credit card for charges similar to the $100,000 charged by Galante from when Quinn-Carey served as chief operating officer.
“Her financial conduct raises serious questions as to whether she should remain in a leadership position with the library,” Stringer said of Quinn-Carey. “I urge the board to review the matter immediately.”