Calling their ouster a “brazen and unconstitutional power grab,” six former trustees of the Queens Library filed a federal lawsuit to be restored to the board.
The suit, filed on Friday by Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades, also demands that the 2014 law that gave Borough President Melinda Katz the power to bounce them, be invalidated.
The six plaintiffs also demand unspecified monetary damages against Katz—including punitive damages—“on account of the egregious nature of the unconstitutional violations and Katz’s malicious and punitive conduct in publicly smearing plaintiffs in order to aggrandize herself,” according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.
After a protracted battle focusing on the stewardship of Tom Galante, the library’s director, the state legislature gave Katz the power to remove trustees of the library before their terms expired.
Katz bounced the six plaintiffs on July 23 because they reportedly attempted to renegotiate Galante’s contract and award him an $800,000 consultancy. He was already under fire for his near-$400,000 salary—coupled with a high-paying side gig at the Elmont School District—and a controversial renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck.
The library receives more than 80 percent of its funding from the public coffers.
Katz did not immediately respond to a call for comment.