BY YVETTE BROWN
Ex-Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante and other library executives spent over $300,000 on personal expenses according to an audit and investigative report released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday, such as expensive meals, alcohol, tickets to concerts and electronics.
“Once we were able to look at all of the library’s accounts, our audit and newly-formed investigative team uncovered a sickening track record of waste, fraud and abuse,” said Stringer. “Tom Galante used the Queens Library as his personal piggybank, charging the public for outrageous expenses including endless rounds of drinks, extravagant dinners and concert tickets.”
Multiple funds were hidden from public scrutiny because of stipulation, which prevented the Comptroller’s office from looking into the library funds, aside from two funds that included city money, according to the library. Stringer sued to invalidate the stipulation, but it was eliminated in Dec. 2014 when the board of directors fired Galante and gave the Comptroller office full access the library’s financial records. The Comptroller’s office was able to conduct a full investigation and audit of the QBPL for the first time in almost two decades. The results have been given to the IRS and law enforcement authorities. The audit showed that the QBPL staff played a shell game with city funds, drawing down accounts open to public scrutiny, while squirreling away money elsewhere, according to a press release.
While Galante was in charge, the library changed most of its operating expenses to the library’s internal ‘City Fund’ account which was overseen by the Comptroller’s office. The library ran deficits from $5.7 million to $6.9 million during the Fiscal Years 2008 to 2013, allowing Galante to ask for more funds from the City Council. The library had between $17 million to $27 million in unrestricted funds in its fine and fees, state and board designated funds during the same period. The library also eliminated services to the public and cut their operating hours of the Queens branches by a total four hours per week. Library executives, at the same time, increased their income by 6.9 percent and even cut staff and staff salary by 2.8 percent.
Following this, the board allowed for its two senior executives to run through hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card expenses, allowed for Galante to work many hours per week at another job and failed to disclose income on Galante and current-interim-CEO’s tax forms. Between July 2007 and Dec. 2013, Galante spent $670,000 in unapproved credit card expenses and between the Fiscal Years 2012 and 2014, Galante and then-Chief Operating Officer Bridget Quinn-Carey incurred more than $310,000 in expenses that violated the library’s credit card, travel and/or purchasing policy (roughly $260,000, of which were incurred by Galante).
The unapproved expenses included $1,962 for tickets to a Maroon 5 concert, which was meant to be a gift as part of “employee appreciation.” $45,792 was spent on meals and alcohol over a three year period, $4,700 used for an executive retreat in Connecticut which also included $360 spent on alcohol for the retreat. $22,800 was used for furniture in Galante’s office and smoking deck, almost $1,000 used in airplane seat upgrades and $100,000 in potential taxable income on Galante’s credit card. More than $16,000 was used on the then-COO Quinn Carey’s credit card for similar charges. There were multiple fuel charges on Galante’s credit card in one day which suggests that other cars aside from Galante’s had been filled. There were three different charges for liquor in the amount of $81.25, which was charged in Seneca Niagara Casino and listed as “meetings.” Galante also purchased two Apple TVs spending $200 for his “home office” and $1,692 for dinner listed as being with city officials where Galante’s son also attended.
“Like other investigations into the library’s finances over the past year, today’s audit confirms many disturbing practices of the library’s prior director and its complacent former trustees – which is why the current Board reversed an earlier decision and unanimously voted to give the Comptroller’s office full access to all of the library’s bank account,” said Chair and Queens Library Board of Trustees Carl Koerner.
From Dec. 2010 to Feb. 2014, Galante billed Long Island’s Elmont Union Free School District for more than 20 hours per week for his work as a “consultant’ all while he was paid for 40 hours per week at the QBPL. Elmont paid Galante between $150,000 and $200,000 annually at an hourly rate which topped the $187 by 2013. Galante claimed to have worked five or more hours for Elmont for more than 100 days while working full days for the library. During the time that he claimed to have been at a library conference for 11 days, he reportedly consulted for Elmont during 10 of those days.
Galante failed to disclose on city integrity forms that he was also the principal owner of three businesses; he informed them after he became aware that he was under investigation. While the library allowed him to work for Elmont, he was not allowed to work for any other outside organization, this would breach he contract.
“The current Board takes its duty to the public very seriously, and expects management to do the same,” added Koerner.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 x.128, email@example.com or @eveywrites