For more than six years, those at the top of the Queens Public Library system enjoyed meals, liquor and concert tickets on library credit cards. They cut staffing, hours, and services, while increasing their paychecks. And while former Queens Library chief executive Thomas Galante was most responsible, other executives and managers went along for the ride.
It's appalling that those heading one of the city's treasured and needed resources could act so recklessly. They had no consideration for residents of Queens, where nearly half of the population is foreign-born and 15% is below the poverty line, and where libraries are critical to learning English, job searching and more.
City comptroller reports found that Galante charged the library system for expenses like Apple TVs and Disneyland tickets, and "played a shell game with city funds."
The reports found that Queens Library's current interim chief executive, Bridget Quinn-Carey, who served as chief operating officer under Galante, also used library funds for prohibited expenses, albeit in far less egregious ways.
It's particularly horrifying that the behavior went on for years without anyone sounding an alarm.
Quinn-Carey was part of the "before," and therefore part of the problem -- and she never said a word.
The only way to change the culture and move forward is to clean house and start anew. The system's trustee board, many of whom are new, repaired some damage by removing Galante and reforming policies. Now, they must be vigilant in oversight, transparency and the enforcement of strict spending guidelines.
But that's not enough. Quinn-Carey was second in command during the mismanagement. Keeping her at the top of the system permanently would undermine reform. As the board begins a search for a permanent chief executive, it needs to find a new leader who's passionate about libraries, will operate the system ethically and effectively, and had no part in its destructive past.
Then, turn attention and funds to where they should've been in the first place: the branches that serve us.