Public libraries hold a long and distinguished commitment to providing a wide range of materials and services essential for a democratic society to flourish. Freedom of access to information and knowledge provides a critical foundation upon which progress is predicated. Therefore, how astonishing it is for the Queens Public Library president and CEO, along with the library’s board of directors, to hinder current requests for transparency in the private arrangements made for compensation utilizing taxpayer funds.
Fortunately, Comptroller Stringer seeks an outside audit and the stern and insightful requests by Borough President Katz for adherence to best practices for governance and management hold the potential for accountability to taxpayers.
The Internal Revenue Service’s form 990 is a publically disclosed document filed annually by most charities, including QPL. The Queens Chronicle quotes CEO Galante as saying he works “… nearly 100 hours a week …” yet the 2007 IRS 990 states 40 hours/week for a total compensation of $375,498; by 2010 it reached $488,503, according to that year’s IRS 990 filing. In 2012 income from government grants (i.e., taxpayer monies) came to $99,668,280 while all other contributions, gifts and grants reached $627,271.
This overwhelming role of taxpayer funding requires consistent transparency. For the board of directors to have operated in the realm of compensation and contractive agreements including the “evergreen clause,” which effectively gives the CEO permanent employment on an advancing five-year calendar, along with a $2 million golden handshake for breaking the agreement, borders on gross arrogance toward the public. The outcome is distrust of an important community institution’s leadership.
Until complete transparency in these financial and employment practices occur, the public would be prudent to specifically earmark all contributions to QPL to be spent only for materials at their local branch library. I know that is what I intend to do.