By STEVEN J. FERRARI
With several new members in place, the Queens Library Board of Trustees approved a motion placing President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Galante on paid administrative leave Thursday night.
The decision comes after months of complaints about the library’s lack of transparency combined with Galante’s salary and outside activities. According to a statement from the library sent after the meeting, Bridget Quinn Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, will serve as interim president and CEO while Galante is on leave.
“The Board is confident that Ms. Quinn Carey, who is a seasoned librarian and experienced leader, will ably guide the Library during this period,” the statement read.
Quinn Carey said the library has long been a model of excellence in the statement.
“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,” she said. “There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”
Galante and the Board of Trustees came under fire last year when reports circulated of Galante’s nearly-$400,000 per year salary, along with his use of funds to create a smoking deck outside his office. Problems were compounded when Comptroller Scott Stringer took office in January and called for an audit of the City’s library systems. Stringer noted that the Queens Library was not cooperative with his audit.
In April, the Library board voted on a measure to suspend Galante, which failed. A later meeting to give Galante a multi-million dollar severance package was also prevented by City officials. After that meeting, Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio removed several members of the Library’s Board of Trustees – members who voted against removing Galante – and began to replace them with new members.
At the meeting Thursday night, the board also approved a measure giving Stringer full access to all financial documents that he has requested. A statement from the library noted that the board’s audit committee will “investigate opportunities to resolve the current dispute through mutual agreement.”
“Tonight’s decision by the board is part of its ongoing efforts to insure the public that the Library’s actions are being conducted in an open and transparent manner,” Joanne King, library spokeswoman, said.
Stringer released a statement Friday morning saying he was pleased with the decision.
“The newly reconstituted Queens Library Board of Trustees has ended months of frustration and misdirection by voting tonight to open its books for my office’s review,” he said. “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.”
A statement from Katz sent late Thursday night applauded the Library Board.
“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,” she said.
Katz also lauded the decision to cooperate with Stringer’s investigation.
“There was no excuse for the Library’s earlier decision not to cooperate with the audit,” she said. “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.”
Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, email email@example.com or @stevenferrari.
Updated with a statement from Comptroller Scott Stringer.