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Queens Library Boss Expensed Mets Memorabilia, Maroon 5 Tickets: Audit

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 3, 2014 3:47pm | Updated on October 6, 2014 8:54am
 A review by Scott Stringer claims that embattled Queens Library chief Thomas Galante may have misused library funds.
A review by Scott Stringer claims that embattled Queens Library chief Thomas Galante may have misused library funds.
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Queens Library

QUEENS — Embattled Queens Public Library CEO Thomas Galante used his organization’s money to pay for lavish dinners, concert tickets, furniture and Mets memorabilia, before he was put on paid leave in September, according to an audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

According to Stringer, who conducted a preliminary review of the library's finances from 2008 through 2013 along with 2013 credit card reciepts, Galante spent nearly $2,000 on tickets for a Maroon 5 concert "for the purpose of 'employee appreciation.'"

Galante also used $235 in library funds for autographs from 1986 Mets great Mookie Wilson and Red Sox player Bill Buckner, for “president’s office decoration,” and spent at least $2,000 for a Mahogany Carleton desk from England.

Galante — who makes $392,000 a year — used library funds to pay for dinners with trustees each month, usually following board meetings, Stringer found. Bills for those dinners — approximately $1,000 each — included charges for cocktails and wine as well as expensive entrees, including “filet mignon, porterhouse steaks and soft shell crab,” Stringer found.

Galante also spent money on multiple room service charges and “sky lounge” purchases during his out-of-town travel.

In a letter to the library’s board of trustees, dated Oct. 1, Stringer wrote that his audit found a “substantial number of questionable expenditures that may not be sufficiently related to the mission of the library.”

“I am deeply troubled by the nature and possibly excessive amount of many expenditures,” Stringer wrote, requesting the board to discuss the issue during its upcoming meeting on Oct. 23.

The board — which only agreed to turn over its financial documents to Stringer in September, after the trustees had initially refused to do — released a statement Friday saying: "The Library's monies are not meant for lavish meals, but solely to advance its important public purpose."

"The current Library Board and its interim president have been taking aggressive measures to insure strict and comprehensive transparency, accountability, and oversight controls," the statement continued, adding that the "gross misuse of Library funds by prior management and past trustees is a grave violation of the public's trust, and confirms our long-held concerns about its entrenched corporate culture."

Galante, who has served as the library's president and CEO for more than a decade, has been roundly criticized for his salary and spending, including $140,000 for renovating his office in Jamaica.

A number of elected officials, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, have called for his resignation, amid a series of ongoing investigations by the FBI and the city's Department of Investigation, which focused on construction spending at the organization.

Galante had been able to maintain the support of the majority of the board, until Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill in June to reform the Queens Library, making it easier to remove library trustees.

Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed eight board members and nominated new members who in September supported putting Galante on administrative leave.