Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s decision to allocate $14 million in new capital funding for the Queens Library — the most money in more than six years — is a sign that the library system is getting the positive attention it needs.
Because of the capital funds, a dozen Queens branches will get to renovate and expand.
A year ago, Katz denied the system any money for improvements, as the library was in a financial scandal involving then-chief executive Thomas Galante. He has been accused by city Comptroller Scott Stringer of spending $260,000 of library funds on prohibited expenses, from Apple TV devices and liquor to the construction of an outdoor deck he used for smoking breaks. Stringer said Galante improperly hid library funds from public view.
Katz’s new funding shows her trust has returned, and it recognizes the libraries’ need for capital dollars. Next, the library has to find a fresh face as its permanent chief executive to replace interim chief executive Bridget Quinn-Carey, who was chief operating officer under Galante and also was accused of misspending funds.
Galante, whose lawyers declined to comment on the allegations, is still an independent financial consultant with the Elmont school district on Long Island. Stringer’s audit found Galante billed Elmont for 20 hours a week at an hourly rate up to $187. A 2011 audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that Galante earned $287,000 between 2008 and 2010. Meanwhile, Queens Library paid him $392,000 a year for the 40-hour full-time gig as its CEO.
In Elmont, DiNapoli should conduct a new audit. Unless the audit clears Elmont and Galante fully, the district should cut ties with its consultant.
Meanwhile, Queens Library executives have to continue to restore trust. The libraries remain critical assets to the demographically and economically diverse borough, and must have strong leadership and resources.
And when interviewing candidates for CEO, Queens board members might want to ask whether they need a smoking deck. If the answer is yes, look elsewhere.