Today we join Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in calling for Queens Library President and CEO Tom Galante to temporarily give up his position.
This was not an easy call to make, and we’re sure it wasn’t for Katz, who now controls half the library board, and Van Bramer, who chairs the Council committee that oversees the library, and worked there for years under Galante before being elected to office. But it’s a necessary one.
Galante has drawn a storm of criticism over the last two months, some of which may well be overblown but some of which appears to be warranted.
One concern is the time he puts into the job. Galante told Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside, and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who represents East Elmhurst and chairs the Finance Committee, that he works 70 to 80 hours a week. He did that in writing. But a Daily News investigation into his second job, as a part-time financial consultant for the Elmont School District in Nassau County, shows that if that’s true, he’s working a schedule that seems superhuman, with some 20-hour days.
Is it possible? Maybe. It may also be one of the reasons the Federal Bureau of Investigation and city Department of Investigation recently descended on the Central Library with subpoenas for various records.
The library, it cannot be said enough, is a fantastic institution, one that is crucial to the lives of countless people in Queens. As Katz and Van Bramer emphasized in their statements calling on Galante to step aside for now, the most important thing for all involved is to protect the library and maintain the vital services it provides. And, as Van Bramer said, we’re tired of seeing it dragged through the mud. We hope the whole situation is resolved soon, whatever the investigations, and the audit being carried out by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, reveal in the end.
Who’s to blame for all this? Certainly Galante for some things, like having that luxurious $27,000 outdoor lounge built outside his office. But it’s likely the library board is culpable too. It was the members, after all, who approved the “evergreen clause” in Galante’s contract that kept it renewed every day for another five years. And it was former Borough President Helen Marshall who appointed half the board, and former Mayor Mike Bloomberg who appointed the other half. Maybe they should have done better oversight, as Katz and Van Bramer are now.
Galante should take a leave of absence — unpaid — until it is determined whether he should continue to serve.