Queens Library refuses to hand over records for audit
by Jess Berry
May 14, 2014 | 3278 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Once again, the Queens Library Board of Trustees has voted to defy both elected officials and Comptroller Scott Stringer by withholding documents Stringer is seeking for an audit.

While Stringer has requested that the library give him access to all of their financial records, the board voted last Thursday night to pass a resolution sponsored by Trustee Mary Ann Mattone saying they would only provide the records they had agreed to make public in 1997 with then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

That agreement only gives Stringer access to documents dealing with public funds from the city, which makes up about 80 percent of the library’s funding. The rest of the funding comes from state and federal governments and private donations.

An opposing resolution, calling for total compliance with the comptroller’s request, was voted down.

Stringer has taken the Queens Library to court, because, according to Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg, he believes the law created under Hevesi’s leadership is “inappropriate, immoral and unlawful.”

The audit came after Queens Library CEO and President Tom Galante came under serious critical fire for his financial practices.

Complaints include that Galante’s nearly $450,000 salary is excessive, particularly when taken into consideration with the second six-figure salary he receives from a Long Island school district; that he spent money on unnecessary improvements for his office during the renovations to the Central Library in Jamaica; and that his hiring of a friend for a number of construction jobs at the library could be a conflict of interest.

"The library has released all requested financial documentation in accordance with the court ordered agreement of 1997,” said library spokesperson Joanne King in a prepared statement. “The audit rules have been the standard for several previous administrations. It appropriately includes audit authority over every dime provided by the city, fines and fees collected and book sale funds.

“As an additional layer of transparency, the library voluntary provided access to the Worker's Compensation Fund as requested," the statement continued.

Borough President Melinda Katz, who was one of two elected officials who called for Galante to take a leave of absence once the criticism began — a request that was also voted down by the board — was less impressed with the board’s “transparency.”

“Once again the Queens Borough Public Library board has raised questions about the execution of their fiduciary responsibility,” Katz said. “By failing to pass this resolution, this board has put itself firmly on the wrong side of any resident of Queens who wishes to see their library run properly.

“This institution continues to move further and further away from accountability at the exact moment it should be embracing transparency,” she added. “The comptroller is acting in the best interest of New Yorkers by trying to find out how taxpayer money is spent. This board is hiding the Queens Library from necessary sunlight and I am committed to making sure that a bright light is shone on this issue.”

Comptroller Stringer released a statement on Friday calling the meeting and vote the night before a “disgrace.”

“It is a shame that the members of the Queens Library board who voted against their own colleagues’ resolution have continued to embrace library management’s anti-transparency policies,” Stringer said. “No public entity is above the law. Parliamentary maneuvers may buy them some time, but rest assured that I am determined to make sure that taxpayers know how their money is being spent at this library system.”

King claimed that the New York and Brooklyn libraries, which are also being audited, took the same stance as the Queens Library, but Sumberg disputed that claim.

The city and Queens Library will appear in court over the issue on June 24.

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