BY STEVEN J. FERRARI
In a letter sent to the Queens Library Board of Trustees on Oct. 1, Comptroller Scott Stringer called on the board to immediately put into effect policies to ensure fiscal practices.
The letter calls into question a number of expenditures from fiscal year 2013 that “may not be sufficiently related to the mission of the library.” Some of those expenditures listed include monthly dinners for trustees and senior management costing an average of $1,000; four tickets to a Maroon 5 concert totaling almost $2,000 for “employee appreciation;” a Mahogany Carleton desk from England costing between $2,000-$3,275; and $235 for autographs of baseball players Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner for decorations for the president’s office.
“The potential impropriety of these charges as well as some limited and inconsistent amounts of supporting documentation accompanying the credit card statements available for inspection suggests, at a minimum, that the library lacks adequate policies and fiscal controls,” Stringer said in the letter. “I am deeply troubled by the nature and possible excessive amounts of many expenditures.”
The Comptroller urged the Board of Trustees to immediately put into effect responsible policies on expenditures and asked the board to discuss the issue on the next meeting of the board, scheduled for Oct. 23.
Stringer called for an audit of all three City library systems earlier this year, meeting resistance only from the Queens Public Library System. The board last month decided to place its embattled president and CEO, Thomas Galante, on a paid administrative leave after Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio removed a number of board members who they believed were not working in the best interests of the library.
The letter noted that while the library has made positive steps in the last month, more work must be done.
“We must not let the Board’s recent action to place CEO and President Thomas Galante on administrative leave distract us from the urgent need to establish adequate management and controls for the library, particularly over expenses incurred by anyone conducting business or traveling on behalf of the library,” Stringer said in the letter.
On Sept. 11, at the same meeting that removed Galante, the board voted to make all information requested by the Comptroller’s Office’s Audit committee available. A spokesman from Stringer’s office noted that the Library’s audit committee voted on Oct. 2 to grant access to the Comptroller beginning on Oct. 3.
The spokesman also noted that the issues referred to in the letter were related to the previous library administration. He said that the current administration, with interim president and CEO Bridget Quinn Carey seems to be receptive to the Comptroller’s requests.
The Queens Library Board of Trustees released a statement Friday afternoon, which noted that the board under its current makeup, along with the new interim president, “have been taking aggressive measures to ensure strict and comprehensive transparency, accountability and oversight controls.
“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,” the statement read. “The Library’s monies are not meant for lavish meals, but solely to advance its important public purpose.”
Reach Steven J. Ferrari at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 122, email@example.com or @stevenferrari.