In this case, the proof wasn’t in the pudding, although it could have been with the lavish dinners hosted by fired Queens Library President Tom Galante. But it was the final audit conducted by Comptroller Scott Stringer that turned up thousands of dollars in personal expenses he billed to the nonprofit.
Galante’s financial antics at the library jeopardized one of the borough’s most cherished institutions as he reported multimillion-dollar deficits from 2008-2013 during a period when operating hours were cut back and the staff reduced, the audit found. At the same time, he ran up more than $600,000 in extravagant credit card charges and the library had as much as $27 million in funds on hand—not exactly the black hole he described to the City Council.
How he was allowed to remain at the helm of the Queens Library for so long boggles the mind.
In her first month in office, Borough President Melinda Katz called the board of trustees to find out how Galante’s expenses were approved and discovered that several members did not even know. She also learned that she did not have the authority to remove trustees.
It took the combined forces of Katz, two Queens state legislators, the mayor and the governor to put the legal machinery in place to oust the rogue trustees loyal to Galante and finally the kingpin himself.
Galante, fired in December for alleged misuse of funds, is facing investigations by the IRS and law enforcement agencies for spending nearly $260,000 in public funds on prohibited purchases.
Stringer’s audit exposed an institution in which poor record-keeping ruled the day and accountability was not high on the to-do list.
A new era of transparency has been introduced at the library under Interim President Bridget Quinn-Carey, but she, too, has felt the sting of Stringer’s audit. The comptroller found the library’s former chief operating officer spent $48,000 on prohibited food, parking ticket and gas purchases, which may have simply reflected a haphazard expense system rather than any improper intent.
With the library now functioning with stricter controls imposed by the state Legislature, comptroller and new board, Quinn-Carey’s future hangs in the balance. She made the rounds of the weeklies in Queens to tout the library’s new policies, but the trustees must decide whether the interim president must go, too, after they authorized the Stringer audit.
Quinn-Carey appears to be a bit player next to Galante, but she was in the No. 2 spot when he was in charge and the board may want to move forward with a clean slate.