In what can only be described as a Wednesday afternoon massacre, Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor de Blasio axed nearly half of the Queens Library Board of Trustees.
Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades received letters from Katz notifying them of their termination Wednesday. Mayor de Blasio sacked two mayoral appointees, Patricia Flynn and Stephen Van Anden.
The 19-member board has nine members appointed by the borough president and 10 appointed by the mayor. Katz said she acted under authority given to her by a new state law, which allows her to remove appointees before their five-year terms are up. All six were appointed by Katz’s predecessor, Helen Marshall.
Of the trustees Katz canned last week, the terms of Jefferson and Stamatiades were to expire at the end of this year, while the terms of Arrington and Mangino — who had been serving since 1972 — expired at the end of 2016. Lawrence’s term was up in 2017 and Ficalora’s in 2018. The terms of both mayoral appointees removed were up at the end of 2015.
In letters sent to the members, Katz said they “failed in their duty to properly oversee the finances of the Queens Library to adequately protect and preserve the Library’s resources and physical property by voting to block the New York City Comptroller’s legitimate efforts to obtain Library financial information and to audit the Library’s funding streams.”
The terminated members also all opposed putting library CEO Tom Galante, whose use of capital funds is under investigation, on leave. Leonard D'Amico, also a borough president appointee who voted against the Galante resolution, stepped down from the board earlier this year.
De Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams released a statement from the mayor, who is still in Italy on vacation.
“We expect that individuals responsible for public funds ensure they are allocated wisely, act in a responsible manner, and protect the public interest,” she said. “In this case, the job of the Board of Trustees is to safeguard the library’s resources for its educational mission, and some of them weren’t doing that up to the standards the public deserves. That’s why the administration felt it was appropriate to remove these individuals from the Board of Trustees. Queens residents deserve a strong library system that is transparent and fulfills its educational purpose, and it is the city’s responsibility to protect the integrity of this important cultural and educational institution.”
Adams added that the mayor will announce new board members soon.
But while de Blasio removed two members who voted no on removing Galante, he did not remove a third — Mary Ann Mattone, wife of developer Joseph Mattone. The Douglaston resident who served as president of the board of trustees in 2008, has served since being appointed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1998. Her current term expires at the end of 2016.
Adams did not address why the mayor did not sack Mattone when asked via email.
Public Advocate Letitia James, who herself is a non-voting member of the board of trustees, also praised the decision to remove the board members.
"I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for their swift action on removing trustees from the library board," she said. "These changes will ensure more accountability and improve the delivery of library services for 2.3 million Queens residents. In light of recent distractions, it is important that the library return to its main mission of serving all residents, particularly our children, seniors and English-language learners. The Queens Borough Public Library is one of the best systems in the country and today’s move will ensure that the system is respected around the country again."
In a statement, the library gave a general defense of its Board of Trustees.
“Throughout the history of the Queens Borough Public Library, the people of Queens have benefitted enormously from a highly committed library Board of Trustees whose leadership has helped keep libraries open and free,” the statement read. “They have helped make Queens Library a recognized national model of excellence. The board consists of volunteer high-profile professionals and community activists who make time out of their busy schedules. Every one of the tens of millions who has enriched his life through Queens Library owes them thanks for their service.”