Tag Archives: Thomas Galante

After Queens Library audit findings, Crowley wants new legislation passed


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

On the heels of the first audit of Queens Library executives in almost 20 years by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced legislation that would require officers of city-funded, nonprofit organizations to disclose any conflicts of interest regarding their income.

After the audit revealed that former Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante and current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey had amassed over $310,000 in personal expenses over a three-year period, including $115,000 in taxable, undeclared income, Crowley said it was “vital” to get this piece of legislation heard and ultimately passed.

The bill would mandate all individuals in leadership positions at charitable, city-funded, nonprofit organizations report sources of outside income to the city annually.

“Now that we know more of the discrepancies committed by library executives, it’s important that going forward, we ensure this corruption is stopped before it can begin,” Crowley said. “We the public should be aware of all sources of income and benefits of each executive and close family member. No executive receiving city monies should be immune to these disclosures. In their positions, they should voluntarily assure the city they are acting in accordance with the law.”

This legislation is currently in the City Council Contracts Committee awaiting a hearing in the fall.

“Last year the City Council learned that Tom Galante, president of the Queens Public Library system, spent public dollars for personal use. He continues to be under investigation for that and other irregularities,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Contracts Committee. “I applaud Council member Elizabeth Crowley for her leadership to shine light on conflicts of interest involving these executive positions. I am eager to hear her legislation in the Contracts Committee later this year.”

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Costly corruption at Queens Library ran deep: comptroller’s audit


| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Executives at the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL) spent millions of dollars on themselves while claiming the library was in debt and reducing both staff and services, according to an audit that City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed during a press conference Wednesday morning outside the Astoria public library.

The investigation revealed that Thomas Galante, former QBPL CEO and president as well as other library executives — including current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey — spent over $300,000 on prohibited, extravagant items such as meals, alcohol, concert tickets and airline upgrades. The spending occurred all while library officials claimed the system was running a deficit, according to the audit.

“For years … Galante and his executive team used the library as their personal piggy banks,” Stringer said. “Today, that era is coming to a definitive close.”

Prior to this investigation, a stipulation put in place by a previous administration blocked the comptroller’s office from looking at any QBPL financial records, except for two funds that the library claimed had city money. This roadblock allowed library staff to spend money with impunity. In December 2014, a newly formed QBPL board of trustees fired Galante and voted to give Stringer’s office full access to library financial records.

Carl S. Koerner, chair of the Queens Library board of trustees, said in a statement Wednesday that Queens Library was working to reform the system from top to bottom.

“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 accounts,” Koerner said.

But Stringer pointed out that Galante’s interim replacement, Quinn-Carey, was also involved in unscrupulous spending of city funds, as noted in the audit.

“Former COO and interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey also made a number of prohibited purchases totaling more than $48,000, including $11,500 for food and booze, 70 gift cards and 22 charges worth $4,000 with no explanation at all,” Stringer said.

In addition to inappropriately spending, the comptroller noted, the library’s senior staff increased their salaries by seven percent and cut library operating hours during Galante’s tenure.

“As they were scaling back access to books, Internet and vital programs and services, they were lining their own pockets,” Stringer charged.

The audit found that during fiscal years 2008 to 2013, the library staff charged all of its operating expenses to the library’s “city fund” account, which is subject to review by the comptroller’s office. This led to the library to appear to be running a deficit that ranged from $5.7 to $6.9 million, which enabled Galante to ask the City Council for more funds, all while the library had between $17 to $27 million in unrestricted funds.

Library executives may also owe personal income tax on purchases made, and they may have made fraudulent purchases. Galante failed to disclose the three businesses that he owns on city integrity forms, only divulging the information when he learned of the audit.

The audit has been submitted to law enforcement agencies for further investigation and action, Stringer said.

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Queens Library CEO appeals for more city funding


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Borough Public Library

With a little more than a month until the city’s budget deadline, the Queens Borough Public Library is urging elected officials to make a much-needed investment in its system.

The Queens Library, along with the Brooklyn and New York public libraries, recently launched the “Invest in Libraries” campaign, which aims to engage New Yorkers in the debate and convince city lawmakers to provide an additional $65 million in combined funding in the 2016 fiscal year budget, which takes effect in July.

Queens Library’s Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey outlined the campaign in an exclusive interview with The Courier Thursday. The Queens Library seeks an $18.2 million funding boost from the city, a drop in the bucket in a budget projected to meet or exceed $70 billion.

Should Queens Library receive the extra funding, Quinn-Carey claimed, it would restore the library’s funding level to that of 2008 and open the door toward adding more than 200 new jobs, expanding existing educational programs and restoring six-day service throughout the system. Since 2008, the library lost 20 percent of its funds, pared jobs and eliminated six-day service at two-thirds of its 62 branches.

Quinn-Carey charged that increasing library funds is a concept that aligns with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to increase economic opportunity for all New Yorkers.  For instance, the extra funds would enable Queens Library to expand its English as a second language program, which was held at 40 branches and proved so popular that some potential students were turned away due to a lack of available seats.

“This is really an investment not only in the traditional library system but also community engagement,” she said. “This is giving communities a greater chance of success.”

Additionally, the Queens Library is also seeking capital funds to renovate many aging, yet heavily used branches such as the Corona, Rego Park and Far Rockaway locations. De Blasio set aside $300 million in the city’s 10-year capital plan to renovate libraries, but Quinn-Carey noted the actual projected costs exceed $1.4 billion.

Quinn-Carey and the Queens Library have spent the better part of a year working to repair its image following a scandal centered around its former president and CEO, Thomas W. Galante. He came under fire early in 2014 after it was revealed that he collected a nearly $400,000 annual salary, ordered a six-figure renovation of his office and made other lavish expenses at a time when the library cut jobs and services due to funding cutbacks.

The library lost political and financial support, and local elected officials such as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sought to change the library’s board of trustees after it resisted calls to force Galante out of office and fully open its financial books. Legislation enacted by the state in June empowered Katz and de Blasio to remove eight library trustees who supported Galante and resisted calls for full financial disclosure.

The board of trustees was stocked with new members by September, when it forced Galante into a leave of absence. Quinn-Carey was named as his interim replacement, and Galante was subsequently fired in December.

Quinn-Carey said she and the reconstituted board are working closely with the government to reform the library system. It engaged audit firms to assess the library’s risks and expenses. Steps were also taken to make the library more transparent; the library is now in compliance with the Freedom of Information Law and posts expense records on its website.

“These efforts and a reform of policies and procedures should reassure the public that the library is a great institution and still able to deliver these great services,” Quinn-Carey said.

Click here for more information about the Invest in Libraries campaign.

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Four top Queens Library execs out in the wake of director’s firing


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Just a month after the former director of the Queens Library was fired from his post, four of his top deputies have now followed him out the door amid a reshuffling of the library’s executive staff.

Tom Galante was bumped from his $392,000-a-year post last month by the library’s board. Galante, through his lawyer, has said he will file a lawsuit charging that the board did not have cause to dismiss him.

Turnover of the top staff continued this week with the resignations of Vice President and General Counsel Darlene Askew-Robinson, Vice President for Information Technology Lisa Epps, Vice President for Human Resources Angelica Huynh-Rivera and Vice President for Capital Projects Frank Geneese.

Library spokeswoman Joanne King declined to identify the departing staffers or any other details of the changes at the top that were reported by the Daily News. But King did release prepared comments about staffing changes from the library’s interim president, Bridget Quinn-Carey.

“Queens Library has entered into a new era. We are creating a new culture of openness and transparency, while continuing the library’s legacy of customer service. A change in direction often requires a change in administration; this was necessary in order for the library to move forward.”

She went on to say, “2015 will be a year of rebuilding and team building. Along with the board, elected officials and other stakeholders, the people of Queens can look forward to the best Queens Library ever,” Quinn-Carey said.

The library was the subject of scathing press reports last year over Galante’s salary, benefits, outside employment and renovation of the executive staff offices, including construction of a smoking deck.

The reports led to Mayor de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz dismissing six members of the library board last year. Former board members have criticized the moves and defended Galante for his record of operating a library that has received numerous awards, nationally and internationally.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer last year joined the battle over the library’s management. He went to court to force the library — technically not a city agency even though 85 percent of its funding comes from City Hall — to open its books so he could conduct an audit.

“I applaud Bridget Quinn-Carey for taking a big broom and doing a clean sweep at the Queens Library,” Stringer said in a statement. “Taxpayers deserve a management team who puts the public’s interest first. I look forward to working with my fellow board trustees and the library’s new leadership as we restore the Queens Library to its rightful place as one of the nation’s premier public library systems.”

Backers of Galante, including several former board members who were booted from their posts by Katz, had defended the former director and said the controversy was sparked by union reaction to his attempts to rein in spending and privatize a small number of janitorial jobs.

They had insisted that Galante’s spending, including credit cards used for travel and other expenses, were all authorized by the board.

If Galante can prove in court that he was fired without cause, he could be owed as much as five years’ salary under the terms of his contract.

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Library expansion breaks ground in memory of Queens activist


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Their eyes looking to the skies in memory of a lost beloved leader, elected officials drove their golden shovels into the dirt to break ground on a long-anticipated library expansion project.

“It feels so good to be standing here today, knowing that construction is beginning,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante at the Friday, April 19 ceremony.

The $10 million renovation project at the Kew Gardens Hills Library was a longtime pet project of Pat Dolan, a Queens activist who was struck and killed by a car last November. She was 72.

“Her memory lives on,” Galante said. “The library she loved so much is now officially located on Pat Dolan Way, and this [expansion] will be her legacy to the community. We will always know she is looking on.”

There will be an extra 3,000 square feet of space when the branch at 72-33 Pat Dolan Way reopens in 2015, officials said.

The library will also have twice as many computers, a bigger meeting room, an energy-saving roof and larger, separate spaces for adults, teens and children.

“This will be a fantastic library. It’s going to be a great place,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Libraries are important because they’re full of knowledge. Little children, teenagers, seniors—they’re good for everyone to absorb knowledge.”

The branch closed for construction on February 22. A temporary library is open at 71-34 Main Street, library officials said. Nearby branches are also located in Hillcrest, Briarwood and Pomonok.

 

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OpEd: Queens Library is tops for families


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BOROS; Queens Library Cyber Center #1

By Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO, Queens Library

Families rely on Queens Library to provide a safe, intellectually stimulating place for their children to learn, create and interact with one another for many great reasons. The offerings are better than ever.

Queens Library hosts positive, free programs to engage children and youth every day of the week — 152, in fact, in the coming week alone. These include picture-book and storytelling sessions, sing-alongs, arts and crafts programs, a presentation about bugs as pets, ping-pong, board games, and a “Jeopardy” competition.

Some of these occur on weekends; many are scheduled right after school hours end. We offer homework help to students, reading clubs, even a spelling bee. Our “Mad Science” series lets kids experience science up close and personal with programs on slime, the three states of matter, and optical illusions. All of these activities occur in well-maintained spaces staffed with skilled personnel. All of these activities occur in well-maintained spaces staffed with skilled personnel.

Queens Library offers self-esteem workshops for children and teens, such as an upcoming weekly discussion forum that informs girls ages nine and older about important life skills and healthy development choices. Topics include school success, conflict management, goal setting and financial literacy. The girls will learn positive communication skills and have an opportunity to participate in activities designed to boost their self-esteem and foster positive new friendships.

The Library’s focus on welcoming and engaging children goes beyond programming. A year ago, we opened the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica. The 14,000-square-foot facility is the only public library in the U.S. to incorporate interactive museum exhibits into a traditional reading-rich library environment and the only free children’s educational destination in New York City with a special emphasis on science, technology, math and engineering.

This cutting-edge children’s facility, which boasts tabletop exhibits designed in partnership with San Francisco’s Exploratorium, has been welcoming young people at a pace of nearly 7,000 a week, hosting more than 384,000 people since it opened in July 2011. Last week, it was honored by the Municipal Art Society, winning its Neighborhood Catalyst Award.

Queens Library also offers the Library for Teens, a 3,000-square-foot former retail store in Far Rockaway, open to young people ages 12 to 19. Staffed by youth counselors, it is stocked with magazines, graphic novels, video games, 40 computers, test-prep materials — even a recording studio. This facility won the 2010 Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award, a prestigious statewide honor. A Teen Center with computer games, a collaborative work area and a quiet room is also coming soon to the Central Library in Jamaica.

Queens Library is constantly looking for ways to make our customers safer, in the library and outside of it, particularly in the case of the most vulnerable members of the community. Our Best Out of School Time program was born out of a mandate to provide, safe, academically-driven havens for children between the end of the school day and the end of the workday. We employ homework help monitors and activity assistants specifically for that purpose.

Lawmakers have been discussing proposals to make libraries even stronger and safer. We are in support of legislation that would add children’s rooms in libraries to the list of places off-limits to registered sex offenders. This would give law enforcement a powerful tool with which to protect the innocent, while also allowing the library to remain true to its mission of providing public access to information.

As a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality services, resources, and lifelong learning opportunities to this diverse borough of 2.3 million people, Queens Library will always be an enriching, welcoming place for all minds to grow.

Elmhurst Library set to double in size


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

After many chapters in its current construction, Elmhurst Library’s story will finally have a new setting.

The library, located at 86-01 Grand Avenue, will be closed effective November 7 and is moving to a temporary facility, located at 85-08 51st Avenue, while a new edifice is built on the existing site.

The original library has stood on Grand Avenue since 1906. Immediately following its initial construction, the building was deemed too small to adequately service the community. The edifice tripled in size during an expansion in 1930, and extensive renovations were also performed in 1965 and 1980.
The modern library, which will cost roughly $27.8 million, is expected to open in 2013. It will feature four levels and will be double the size of the current building.
“A library is one of the greatest resources for people of all ages in any community,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who allocated approximately $23 million in capital funds for the new library. “Here at the Elmhurst Library, thousands of visitors comb its treasure trove of literary, musical, artistic and reference material. Now, it has become a victim of its own success and needs to expand in a new building double the size of the old one.”

Among the facility’s premier attractions will be a Cyber Center with 32 computers, a new Adult Learner Center, an interior reading atrium and front and rear community gardens. There will also be separate reading areas for adults, teens and children.

The modern structure will look towards the future while keeping a respectful eye towards the past by installing “memory features” throughout the building, which are designed to preserve the library’s legacy in the neighborhood. Original bricks will be used in the new façade, and the Children’s Room fireplace will be reinstalled during construction. There will also be a “1906 Memory Wall,” consisting of historical photos of the library and the Elmhurst community.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said Thomas Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library. “The current library lends a million books and DVDs a year, which is more than double the volume per square foot of Flushing Library, and Flushing is the busiest library in New York State. The new Queens Library at Elmhurst will be a community hub for generations to come, with its gardens and a wealth of resources.”