Queens Library tables Galante’s contract talks

Queens Library tables Galante’s contract talks

The Queens Library's board of trustees cancelled a special meeting last week after Borough President Melinda Katz pressured the system to reconsider green-lighting a lofty golden parachute for embattled CEO Thomas Galante. Photo by William Alatriste/NYC Council

The Queens Library’s board of trustees cancelled a special meeting last week after Borough President Melinda Katz pressured the system to reconsider green-lighting a lofty golden parachute for embattled CEO Thomas Galante.
Photo by William Alatriste/NYC Council

The Queens Public Library’s board of trustees called off a controversial meeting discussing its embattled CEO’s golden parachute after borough leaders argued against any action until his legal troubles subside.

Borough President Melinda Katz has been on Library boss Thomas Galante’s case since reports surfaced earlier this year detailing his six-figure salary earned during a time when the system laid off union workers and outsourced contracts. She called out the library last Thursday and accused its board of trying to negotiate a buyout deal before state reforms go into effect.

“This ‘amendment’ to Tom’s contract gives him almost $800,000 in taxpayer money to remain in the library for the next 18 months and is being shamefully rammed through the board on two days’ notice,” Katz said in a statement. “The short notice and speed of the meeting is purposeful. Two pieces of legislation making the success of this proposal more difficult will become law in the next few weeks and it is the board’s intent to beat the clock.”

Galante’s position has remained under the microscope for months amid various legal investigations into his handling of library funds and several lawmakers calling for his resignation. Officials were outraged earlier this year when reports revealed he was making $392,000 each year as the library CEO at a time when funding for the system was dwindling.

Katz also accused the CEO and trustees of failing to cooperate with a City Comptroller Scott Stringer request to open the library’s books for a full-fledged audit of the system.

“This is another painful example of how several of the trustees of this board have consistently blocked any sort of good governance or increased oversight reforms,” Katz said. “Since February, I have been asking the library board to implement basic nonprofit best practices such as limiting outside employment by key staff, abolishing the current administrative committee, mandating financial disclosure and requiring board approval for the hiring key library staff.”

A spokeswoman for the Queens Public Library confirmed the meeting was called off the same day Katz came out against any more movement on the board’s behalf. But Katz also said she was not alone.

“Other trustees also asked that the meeting be postponed so that a full discussion could be had by the entire board,” Katz said. “If this proposed contract amendment is determined to be good policy for the library, then it should still be good policy after the two laws come into effect and it would be disingenuous for the trustees to claim otherwise.”

Those laws Katz mentioned included one bill the state Legislature passed earlier this month that set out to reform the board of trustees’ role with the library. One facet of the measures also blocked Galante from negotiating his own exit package, which the meeting was initially scheduled to accomplish, Katz said.

That same day, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) came out to confirm Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law, making it effective immediately.

“Effective immediately, my bill will rein in the excesses revealed in recent reports and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system of which every Queens resident can be proud,” Gianaris said. “I am thankful for the way just about everyone in Queens came together to fight for these much-needed reforms, and I look forward to the day when taxpayers in Queens can be confident their dollars support a library system built to enrich our understanding of the world and not to enrich a select few at the expense of many.”

By Phil Corso

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