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Queens Chronicle

Katz calls for reform of Queens Library finances, governance

Eyes board action and state legislation, following controversy over director's pay

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Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 1:04 pm | Updated: 5:13 pm, Fri Feb 21, 2014.

Borough President Melinda Katz on Tuesday called on the Queens Library to implement several reform measures in light of the controversy over its executive director's salary, benefits, office renovations and outside employment.

It was recently revealed by the Daily News that the director, Tom Galante, earns at least $392,000 a year at the library, which is a private nonprofit institution but is mostly funded by city taxpayers. Some members of the City Council say his pay is actually $446,000. He also earns a six-figure salary from a side job with the Elmont School District on Long Island, and recently had his office upgraded as part of a renovation project at the Central Library in Jamaica.

Katz, in a letter to the library Board of Trustees, recommends several reform measures and said she will seek state legislation to implement others, working with Assemblyman Jeff Aubrey (D-Corona) to move a bill forward.

The board is meeting today, Feb. 20, and Katz advised the members to:

• establish a fixed term of employment for the executive director;

• hire an outside consultant to analyze his compensation, including fringe benefits;

• limit his outside employment and that of other "key Library personnel"; and

• adopt a series of "best practices," some of which, she said, are already required by law under the state's Nonprofit Revitalization Act, adopted last year.

Those best practices include establishing an audit committee; abolishing the library's Administrative Committee and replacing it with a new Executive Committee; reforming financial disclosure and outside employment policies; establishing a panel to deal with labor relations; and other reforms.

Acknowledging at the top of her letter that the library "is one of the most treasured assets in the Borough of Queens," Katz said the board must implement reforms for the good of the library system.

"Faith must be restored in our library system and the Board of Trustees must act swiftly to do its part to restore the trust that has been lost before any more damage is done to an institution that has given the City so much," she said.

The board will meet at 7:15 p.m. Library spokeswoman Joanne King provided a statement in response to Katz's letter from Gabriel Taussig, the board chairman.

The statement alludes to a City Council hearing on library finances recently convened by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations, following the press coverage of Galante's compensation.

“After concerns were raised in a public forum, the Board took immediate action," Taussig said. "A special meeting was held the day after the City Council hearing to review and address the issues. We are taking positive steps toward addressing the concerns and anticipate taking actions at our next scheduled board meeting on February 20th. 

"Queens Library fully supports transparency and accountability. It is the best way to preserve the tremendous value the library provides to the community and to serve their  best interests and to preserve the bond of trust the library has with our stakeholders." 

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