Thomas Galante testifies before NYC Council
Galante faced questions from Councilwoman Crowley over spending 30,000 dollars on a PR firm.
Added: 1 year ago
Queens Library chief Thomas Galante placed on paid leave pending results of city and federal investigations
BY Kerry Burke, Ginger Adams Otis
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Thursday, September 11, 2014, 11:33 PM
The story of embattled Queens library chief Thomas Galante entered a new chapter Thursday night after he was put on indefinite leave by the board.
Galante, who has headed up the Queens public library since 2003, will get full pay while he is out on leave, board members said after a heated session behind closed doors.
But he's banished from the library pending the results of a full financial audit by City Controller Scott Stringer and the outcome of a probe of the library's construction projects by the FBI and the city's Department of Investigation.
The library chief, who makes $392,000, got in hot water after a series of Daily News' articles revealed his side jobs and liberal use of library money to renovate his office, among other perks.
Galante, 53, appeared at the meeting briefly Thursday night while basic library business was conducted.
But when the board moved to go into executive session - away from members of the press and public - he skedaddled.
The board went into its private meeting at 7:21 p.m. and didn't emerge until after 9:30 p.m.
Some shouting and raised voices could be heard through the door, with one woman demanding several times, "I want to see the report!"
The vote to put the scandal-scarred library chief on leave followed a tumultuous summer in which 10 trustees, all Galante supporters, were forced off the nonprofit group's 19-member board by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor de Blasio.
Eight were removed directly by the mayor and Katz on July 23, only weeks after the Legislature approved a law giving city officials more oversight over the library. Two other pro-Galante trustees resigned.
Since then, Katz and de Blasio have each appointed two trustees, bringing the current board membership to 13 - enough to approve any major changes.
The new board voted to put Galante on leave by a wide margin, with only a few dissenters.
One board member who spoke on condition of anonymity said many members wanted to ban Galante without pay, but didn't have cause.
The old board, stacked with Galante's supporters, had always signed off his side jobs, the new member noted.
It was also decided that the library would turn over all personnel and financial records to Controller Stringer's office.
The interim president and CEO to replace Galante is Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library's chief operations officer.
As The News first revealed months ago, Galante had built a $27,000 private smoking deck adjacent to his executive offices; was holding down a private consulting job for a Long Island school district that paid him more than $100,000 a year; and had awarded millions of dollars in lucrative library renovation projects to a longtime acquaintance connected to the same Long Island school district.
The revelations triggered a public outcry, City Council oversight hearings, the Stringer audit and the criminal probe. The old board had refused to provide all the financial records Stringer requested as part of his audit.
Stringer applauded the new board for its action Thursday night, saying it ended "months of frustration and misdirection" by opening its books.
"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. Placing President and CEO Thomas Galante on administrative leave is a necessary step to move the library forward toward comprehensive governance reforms," Stringer said.
How a New York library boss blew $40,000 of taxpayers' money on European trips, Coldplay tickets and steak dinners
By Louise Boyle for MailOnline
Published: 16:59 EST, 11 December 2014 | Updated: 18:02 EST, 11 December 2014
A library boss in New York City faces losing his job after he allegedly went on a rampant $40,000 spending spree, blowing cash on lavish dinners, concert tickets and trips abroad.
Thomas Galante, director of Queens Library, could be axed next Wednesday after a newly-installed board of trustees found he was using his corporate credit card to expense trips on alleged library business to Barcelona, Amsterdam, Athens, Helsinki, Aspen and Newport Beach in California.
He also charged $23,000 to a furniture store which went to kit out his executive office and a rooftop smoking deck at the library, the Daily News reported.
The blowouts, which are documented in records back to 2011, also included restaurant tabs to the tune of thousands of dollars and bills run up at casinos and liquor stores.
According to the NYDN, Galante spent $2,740 at Morton's Wacker Place Steakhouse in Chicago on June 30 this year; $5,620 at Vetro Restaurant and Lounge in Howard Beach, Queens; and $3,480 at Dazies in Sunnyside, Queens.
In December 2011, $1,100 was spent on tickets to see Coldplay.
Galante also reportedly hit the credit card for daily runs to Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks along with washing his car and auto repairs.
Hundreds of dollars of cookies were ordered from a gourmet company on the card.
John Hyslop, president of library workers Local 1321, told MailOnline on Thursday: 'The hubris and excess of Thomas Galante is disgraceful and is so detrimental to the Queens Library, its customers and staff - especially because we've been pleading for more funds to hire more people and serve the public.'
Although it is assumed that many of the large purchases were made due to library business, the volume of charges, in particular for lavish dinners, attracted attention.
Galante was placed on leave in September as the review took place but was still being paid $392,000.
Sources told the NYDN that it is expected that Galante's dismissal will come recommended. The library is 85 per cent public-funded.
Mr Hyslop claimed that while Galante was in charge, he contracted out the positions for custodians, claiming that the library could not afford them with its budget.
He also said that a public staff member had not been hired since 2008, meaning library opening hours were cut back.
Mr Hyslop added that library workers - some of whom have salaries around $29,000 - were forced to pay out of pocket to attend conferences because their budget would not cover entire trips.
However he added that the library trustees and interim director had moved on from the reported scandal.
'We are committed to transparency and integrity at the Queens Library,' Mr Hyslop said.
'We want the best for our customers.'
MailOnline was awaiting a comment on Thursday from the officer of Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz.
A comment from Mr Galante's lawyer, Thomas Martini, was also sought.
The head of the Queens Public Library is now under a federal investigation, a probe that is expected to take a deep look at how much money it spends on renovations, but nonetheless, the library's CEO was at the City Council Tuesday to make his case for more public dollars in the city budget. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Thomas Galante, the head of the Queens Library, walked into City Hall Tuesday prepared to ask for more money.
"There is still more to do, including investments needed to protect and maintain libraries by replacing roofs and heating and air conditioning systems," Galante said.
He left in a swarm of reporters, firing off questions about private attorneys and subpoenas.
"No comment, guys. You can just boogie, OK?" he said.
Galante is under federal investigation. It's a scandal that overshadowed a routine budget hearing at the City Council, and it's one chapter in the now controversial saga of Galante's tenure at the helm of the Queens Library system.
First, it was a question of his salary, which is upwards of $400,000 a year. Then, there were questions about a costly renovation of his library office, which included a smoking deck. Now, Galante is being eyed for alleged ties he has with the library's contractor.
On Tuesday, Galante assured the Council that any lawyers hired on his behalf were not being paid for with public dollars.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley of Queens: Are we using city dollars, tax levy dollars to pay for private attorneys?
Galante: No. There was no vote on any private attorneys or anything of the like of what you just said.
He said that the library's recent decision to hire a public relations firm had nothing to do with the scandal.
"There was a $30,000 appropriation for a public relations firm, which is part of an ongoing work that we're doing to promote the services that we offer," he said.
This is the second appearance for Galante before the City Council in about a month. So far, members say the investigation needs to continue, and none have called for his resignation.
"I think that we should allow those investigations to proceed and conclude before calling for anyone's resignation," said City Councilman James Van Bramer of Queens.
In fact, council members told NY1 that they plan to bring Galante back to the chamber, with the expectation that they will get more detailed answers to their questions.