Queens Library Announces Reforms Amid President's Spending Scandal

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on April 3, 2014 4:13pm 

 Borough President Melinda Katz, Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry announced Thursday that they have crafted and introduced legislation to reform the Queens Public Library.
Borough President Melinda Katz, Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry announced Thursday that they have crafted and introduced legislation to reform the Queens Public Library.
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Senator Michael Gianaris' office

QUEENS — The Queens Public Library has announced a series of reforms in the wake of revelations about its president's high salary and spending, including creating an audit committee and plans to limit executives from holding down other jobs.

Thomas Galante, the library's president and CEO, is under fire for his $390,000 salary and the $140,000 he spent last year to renovate his library office in Jamaica, part of a $10 million overhaul of the liberty's main branch. The library's board of trustees may decide his fate Thursday night during a meeting.

Galante has also come under scrutiny for moonlighting as a consultant in Elmont, LI and pulling in nearly $115,000 for the work, according to the Daily News.

Among the changes the board adopted in an effort to improve the library's transparency and oversight, is creating an audit committee, which is already in place.

The committee will "assist the Board in improving oversight of the internal and existing external audit function, including the appointment of both internal and external auditors who will report directly to the Board," according to a statement from the library.

The board is also planning to create a new conflict of interest policy, limiting outside employment and will conduct “an independent and thorough review of the President & CEO’s employment contract.”

As part of Galante’s salary evaluation, his compensation will be analyzed in the context of the pay that leaders of similar not-for-profit institutions earn, the library said.

“Every organization needs to continually monitor and, when needed, to adjust its governing structure, policies and procedures to stay current and to adopt industry best practices,” said board chair Gabriel Taussig in the statement. “These changes will help ensure that the library remains transparent, accountable and effective.”

The statement was issued shortly after Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) announced a legislation, drafted with the help of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, to keep closer tabs on the library.

The bill would also require financial disclosure from key executives at the Queens Library and would limit their ability to work for other employers to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

Gianaris, who in a statement called the library “an invaluable resource for those seeking to enrich their understanding of the world,” said "it is also a taxpayer-funded institution with no right to unjustly enrich its employees at the expense of New Yorkers.”

In a letter sent earlier this week to the board, Katz asked its members to take action at their meeting Thursday.

“As an elected official charged with allocating taxpayer dollars, I must ensure that they are appropriated wisely — and I cannot do that while the library’s sitting President faces a federal investigation,” Katz wrote.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer launched audits of New York City’s three library systems in January, beginning with the Queens Public Library, and the FBI is investigating construction spending tied to the library.

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