July 25, 2014
Mayor de Blasio and Queens borough president dismiss library trustees in ongoing investigation
by Claire Kelley
The New York Daily News broke the story on Wednesday that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz have dismissed eight library trustees who voted to allow library chief Thomas Galante to keep his job. Galante has been under fire for mismanagement of funds of the Queens Library system, which is one of the largest in the world with 62 branches and 7.5 million items in its holdings.
In a letter to Galante and each of the trustees, de Blasio and Katz explained that they felt the ouster was necessary to protect the library. “Your vote to allow Mr. Galante to continue to serve as President and CEO,” they wrote, “demonstrates a failure to assiduously protect (library) resources.”
After a series of revelations about his salary, job perks, and arrangements for extremely lucrative consulting gigs, Galante is being investigated by “the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the United States attorney general; the New York City Department of Investigation; and Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller” according to the New York Times.
But trouble at the Queens Public Library hasn’t just been about Galante. Even when the public outcry—and the evidence—to oust Galante was mounting, the trustees have been slow to react and instead of removing him from office, even trying to pay him more to be a consultant for the library. In response, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill at the end of June to have oversight of the Queens Public Library.
The action that de Blasio and Katz have taken to fire the members of the board of trustees who are protecting Galante may be a sign that changes are coming to the Queens Public Library, with funding that benefits the public. And there are signs that librarians whose jobs were lost when the budgets were slashed may be reinstated. According to The Chief:
he Queens Borough Public Library recalled 40 workers who were laid off in 2010 because of budget cuts. In all, the library system laid off 44 employees, four of whom were since reinstated, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King. She called the move “a positive step.”
Although this is indeed a move in the right direction, the problems at the Queens Public Library aren’t over yet. A case must still be constructed against Galante in order to remove him from office—and to prevent him from receiving a $2 million “golden parachute” set up for him by the board of trustees.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.