After a month of having his salary, spending and contract scrutinized, Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante was called before the City Council with fellow heads of the Brooklyn Public Library, Linda Johnson, and New York Public Library, Anthony Marx, for the Committee on Cultural Affairs’ annual budget hearing.
This year, the library budgets will remain the same, but all three want an extra $65 million added onto their $171 million annual budget.
This would bring library spending power back up to what it was in 2008, before the economic collapse.
The extra money, the library heads said, will help keep all city libraries open at least six days a week.
The hearing was relatively uneventful. Council members asked a few clarifying questions, mostly to Marx and Johnson.
Then Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley addressing Galante, (D-Middle Village) got to the microphone and shook things up.
“I have heard reports that there was a vote by the board and city dollars might be being used to fund attorneys for you and your staff as well as consultants from P.R. firms to better the library’s image,” she said. “Is that true?”
“No,” Galante said. “There was no vote.”
Crowley, who was rather skeptical of Galante’s candor and disagreed with his annual salary of almost $400,000 at last month’s oversight hearing, was not happy with the response.
Galante is reportedly facing a federal criminal probe on library funds.
“As I understand it, the executive board has hired attorneys for yourself and whoever else on the board and I want to make sure we’re not using city dollars for this,” Crowley said during the second round of questions. “Can you assure the committee?”
Galante said he can and added the consultants have been used in the past and were to promote the library and its services, not cover up any possible wrongdoings or bad press.
“We also haven’t seen the library’s capital budget which worries me,” Crowley continued. “I want to know exactly what the library is controlling, what goes to [Department of Design and Construction] and what goes out for bid.”
Galante did not comment on Crowley’s statement but did rebuff her comment that the amount of money donated to the library didn’t match information to the councilwoman, saying, “I can assure you that you’re reading the numbers wrong and I have provided the correct information.”
Public Advocate Letitia James was also in attendance and asked Galante why her office had yet to receive information on possible conflict of interests going on within the library.
The hearing ended within an hour but not before Crowley asked the committee to consider holding a separate hearing in the near future for Galante individually so that members can review expenses and question him on money spent on the lavish reconstruction of the Central Branch, which included what some call a smoke deck.
Many members agreed and by the end of the hearing, Crowley received some applause from the audience.