Six people who were removed from the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees have filed suit in federal court against Borough President Melinda Katz and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in an effort to be reinstated.
Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades were removed by Katz on July 23, the same day Mayor de Blasio dismissed Patricia Flynn and Stephen Van Anden.
All are supporters of embattled Queens Library CEO Tom Galante, and all were removed shortly after Gov. Cuomo signed a new law — partially written by Katz — to change the conditions under which library trustees can be removed for cause.
In a statement accompanying a copy of their 26-page complaint, the attorney for the six said the trustees acted “to halt a brazen, and unconstitutional , power grab by the Queens Borough President, with the aid of the state Legislature, to transform the Queens Borough Public Library from an independent, private, nonprofit corporation into an organ of City Government controlled by the Queens Borough President and Mayor.”
The complaint states that the library board was established in its former incorporation in 1907 for the very specific purpose of insulating it from political control and allowing it to function as “an independent, self-governing institution.”
The complaint says the amendment was the end result of Katz attempting to take control of the board.
“Within six weeks of taking office she informed the trustees that she would be pushing for state legislation to make them more accountable — to her.”
That time period would coincide with a series of articles in the Daily News asking numerous questions about how Galante oversaw funds for the library’s capital expenses; the amount of time on the job he spent while allegedly working long, lucrative hours every week as a consultant for a Long Island school district; and how an associate of Galante’s from the school district came to receive Queens Library contracts.
Katz has said that a federal grand jury has issued three subpoenas
All six suing Katz, and the two dismissed by de Blasio, voted against a motion that would have placed Galante on leave while at least three city and federal investigations into the allegations are being conducted.
In the complaint and the accompanying statement, attorney Douglas Grover said trustees, under library bylaws, can only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the rest of the board.
“The trustees remain on the board, and they can be removed only according to the Library’s bylaws, not by an unconstitutional statute or the whims of local politicians,” he said.