Queens Library votes to put CEO Galante on indefinite paid leave
by Jess Berry
Sep 12, 2014 | 4203 views | 0 0 comments | 153 153 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The months-long battle between the Queens Public Library (QPL) and elected officials came to a head last night when the newly appointed board of trustees placed Thomas Galante, the president and CEO of the library, on indefinite paid leave.

The decision came after an executive session that lasted over two hours, at the end of which the board announced that Galante would be banned from the library indefinitely, pending the results of a financial audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and investigations by the city’s Department of Investigation and the FBI.

While on leave, Galante — who has led the QPL since 2003 — will be paid his full $392,000 salary.

The controversy around Galante began when it was revealed that in addition to what many deemed an exorbitant salary, he held a second, six-figure salary job as a consultant for a Long Island school district. Scrutiny on Galante began when it was revealed that he built a $27,000 private smoking deck outside of his office during repairs to the library's Central Branch.

Many former board members, however, supported Galante despite the accusations of mismanagement. Thus, when Borough President Melinda Katz asked for the board to remove Galante during the investigations, the 19-member board voted down the proposal.

Katz followed up by pushing for state legislation that would allow for the borough president and the mayor to remove any members of the board they appointed with just cause, which had previously not been allowed until board members' five-year terms were up.

She and Mayor Bill de Blasio then immediately removed eight of the 10 Galante supporters on July 27. The other two resigned.

Since then, the mayor and borough president have each appointed two new board members, giving the now 13-member board a majority that can make official decisions. It was expected going into last night’s meeting that the new board would vote to remove Galante.

The library’s chief operations officer, Bridget Quinn-Carey, will serve as the acting CEO and president while Galante is on leave.

"Queens Library has a critical mission to provide information and education,” Quinn-Carey said. “It has long been a model of excellence. I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees, our elected officials and colleagues at all levels of the organization, including our union, to build on the library's outstanding work. There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”

The board also decided to give Stringer and the U.S. Attorney’s office full access to all financial records, which was not the case under the former board. Previously, auditors were given access to the library’s public funds only, with the use of private donations kept private.

Stringer thanked the board for the action, saying they “ended months of frustration and misdirection.”

“My audit will seek to tell the full story behind what has been a sordid series of reports of alleged poor governance and irresponsible spending at the Queens Library,” Stringer said in a statement. “Placing President and CEO Thomas Galante on administrative leave is a necessary step to move the library forward toward comprehensive governance reforms.”

Katz also praised the board’s decisions.

“I am pleased that the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees voted to place Queens Library President and CEO Thomas Galante on a leave of absence,” she said. “This action will allow for the newly appointed board to take immediate steps to improve the Queens Library’s governance and increase the transparency of its operations without any unjustified interference from Mr. Galante.

“I also applaud the Board for voting to provide City Comptroller Scott Stringer with the information he needs to conduct the audit of the Library’s finances," she added. "There was no excuse for the Library’s earlier decision not to cooperate with the audit. The Queens Library is 85 percent funded by city taxpayer dollars and those taxpayers deserve to know whether their hard earned money is being spent appropriately.”

Should the new trustees have put Galante on paid administrative leave?

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