The new Queens Library board took further shape Tuesday, as Borough President Melinda Katz made her first appointment to the 19-seat body since she and Mayor de Blasio together purged eight members on July 23 in response to the controversy surrounding the institution.
The new member is Robert Santos of Sunnyside Gardens, who Katz said in a prepared statement “has had a long, wide-ranging career in higher education, cultural institutions, municipal government and construction.”
Among other posts, Santos has served as vice president of The New York Public Library, as chief administrative officer of Adelphi University, as executive director of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Development Corp. and as a high-ranking official in two city departments.
He also fought in the Vietnam War, serving as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division and earning two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars for valor.
“Robert’s extensive background in operations and capital construction, along with his experience as the Chief Operations Officer of the New York Public Library, make him uniquely qualified for this appointment,” Katz said. “His skills and commitment to public service will help steward the Queens Library through this difficult period and beyond.”
“It is an honor to serve on the Board of the Queens Library and to join other involved and committed citizens dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the Queens Library system,” Santos said. “Nothing is more important to the health of a community and the intellectual capital of its people than a public library, and the Queens Library is one of the best public libraries in the nation.”
The appointment of Santos follows that of Jukay Hsu, founder of a technology incubator in Long Island City, whom de Blasio named to the board on Aug. 12. The offices of the borough president and the mayor take turns naming trustees.
The same day Hsu was appointed, Trustee Mary Ann Mattone resigned. Mattone was the only remaining member of the board faction that had continued supporting embattled library President and CEO Tom Galante, and refusing to fully comply with City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s demands for documents, following the eruption of the controversy.
Concerns about Galante’s salary, spending and part-time side job led to an audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and a federal criminal investigation. Both are pending. As part of the audit, Stringer sought financial records from the library that traditionally have been withheld — those related to its spending of private donations. About 90 percent of the library’s funding comes from the taxpayer, the vast majority of it from the city. Stringer took the library to court to force it to give up all the records he sought, a matter that also is still pending.
The trustees who were dismissed by Katz and de Blasio were all in a bloc of the board that won three votes that angered elected officials in Queens: one against a motion to put Galante on paid leave while the investigations play out; a competing resolution to retain him that was approved; and another against complying with Stringer’s demands.
Following those votes, the state enacted a new law that allowed for the purge.