Queens Library: Controversy & Takeover
Queens Boro President Katz's Controversial Queens Library 'Reform Bill' & NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer's Lawsuit Against the Award Winning Queens Library Resulted in Taxpayers Paying Million$? for What?
This section is dedicated to an important and evolving story happening within the borough of Queens regarding a change to the governance of the Queens Public Library system. Government officials with the help of the NY Daily News appeared to wrest away control of the library from the quasi-independent board of trustees set up by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century. Andrew Carnegie donated the funds to build public libraries in New York City and throughout the U.S. and the independent board structure was meant to keep the libraries independent of government control.
The graphic at right was created by Sunnyside artist and jazz drummer Paul Maringelli.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer in tandem with the NY Daily News relentlessly attacked the award winning Queens Library President Thomas Galante and the Queens Library Board using allegations and innuendo in what appeared to be a publicity hanging. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz then pushed through legislation changing the Queens Library charter, which wrested control away from the independent board, and gave it to her and the Mayor. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law with the near unanimous vote from both NYS legislative bodies.
It appears it was a power grab by Katz with Stringer's help, as the allegations did not result in any court actions and the Queens Library subsequently suffered a multi-million dollar lawsuit loss [we heard but could not confirm that it cost $7 million] regarding the Queens Library President's termination [settled out of court - probably so it wouldn't be scrutinized by the public or the press]. Most of the other local press was guilty of following the NY Daily News narrative which appeared to be guided by the then Publisher, billionaire and real estate developer Mortimer Zuckerman. We carved out our own narrative as what the NY Daily News was reporting didn't seem to be supported by what we knew about the Queens Library and its award winning president.
Click here to read our coverage of the Queens Library corruption scandal starring NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz & Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News or click here for Queens Public Library program and other announcements at the Queens Public Library website.
Queens Library 'Scandal' - Where was the Beef?
Galante Seeks to Clear his Name as well as the Reputations of the Queens Library & Former Sacked Trustees
How Did Katz's, Stringer's & NY Daily News' Full Year of Accusations & Innuendo Fall So Far Short in Court?
Throughout 2014, we witnessed Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz publicly attack President Thomas Galante and the Board of Trustees of the Queens Library. They appeared to individually and collectively insinuate that there was unforgivable malfeasance going on at the Queens Library.
In late January of 2014, only a day after Juan Gonzales published an EXCLUSIVE muckraking story about the Queens Library President's renovations to his office, in Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announced an audit of the Queens Library.
Juan Gonzales included in the story what I believe was leaked CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION of the Queens Library, such as the Queens Library President's salary and other confidential employment agreements. Former trustee(s) told me they believed that this information was leaked by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz's ex-Officio Board of Trustees representative on the board, in violation of their fiduciary obligation to the Queens Library [to date this is an unproven allegation].
Katz, Stringer & Zuckerman's NY Daily News Accusations - Appear to Damage Queens Library Reputation - with a Year Long Barrage of, as yet Unproven, Allegations
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News then regaled us for the rest of the year  with all kinds of incredible detail about alleged wrongdoing at the Queens Library. Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News published several editorials during the course of the year rousing Queens residents into a frenzy against Galante and the Queens Library trustees, while encouraging these two politicians / government officials to unleash their fury against the Queens Library President and Board of Trustees.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz obliged by initiating legislation to change a state covenant with the library drafted by Andrew Carnegie over a century ago. Andrew Carnegie founded the library as part of his great philanthropic works. And NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer filed a lawsuit seeking complete access to the records of the private non-profit segment of the library, because he must not have found what he was looking for in the public portion representing 85% of the organizational budget. They appear to have done such a good job of damaging the reputation of the Queens Library, that in the following year [2015/ 2016] donations to the non-profit library fell by almost 40% or nearly $2 million.
Did NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer Break the Law & Slander Thomas Galante & the Former Queens Library Trustees?
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer made a number of harsh statements during the course of the audit of the Queens Library alleging lies and theft. In a May 22, 2014 story published by the Queens Tribune, Stringer said,
"For them [Queens Library Board of Trustees] to mislead the public and tell the public that they are, in fact, cooperating, is nothing more than a bold-faced lie.”
In a July 8, 2015 story published in Newsday, Stringer charged Queens Library executives with using public funds as their
"personal piggy bank" ...
And later in the same story NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer says,
"As they were scaling back access to books, the Internet and vital programs and services, they were lining their own pockets."
These statements, if untrue, might constitute slander, particularly given the fact that many of the people NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer attacked are private citizens - not public officials like himself.
The title of his final audit report seems to negate his previously made assertions, as the title of the final NYC Comptroller's report is,
"REPORT OF THE COMPTROLLER’S INVESTIGATION INTO POSSIBLE MISCONDUCT REVEALED BY THE AUDIT OF THE QUEENS BOROUGH PUBLIC LIBRARY"
The operative word is possible and this is after likely one of the most intense, year and a half long audits, of any library in the city, ever.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer referred his findings to the IRS and other legal entities for follow up. This is following an investigation by the FBI, the NYC Department of Investigations, Scott Stringer's own office of the NYC Comptroller, and following the initiation of legislation by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz to change a 118 year old covenant between the Queens Library and the State of New York.
Lots of Smoke, but Still No Fire
As of this writing, nearly three years later, the allegations of wrongdoing by Thomas Galante have been all smoke and no fire.
So far, we've still heard nothing more than allegations and innuendo and possibly libelous and slanderous accusations by public officials and a billionaire NYC real estate developer's paper.
Under Galante the Queens Library was a Top Rated Library in the Nation with an Unblemished Financial Record
Each of the accusers rarely, if ever, mentioned that the Queens Library was considered by its peers to be one of the finest libraries in the nation. That the Queens Library had won national awards which confirmed the library's national standing. And the accusers never mentioned that in all the years that Thomas Galante had been President of the jeweled Queens Library, that it had been run fiscally responsibly with a balanced budget and never a hint of scandal ... until they came along, in their newly elected positions, ALLEGING one.
The accusers accounts did not jibe with what I personally knew about the Queens Library, so I set about drafting an alternative narrative to what appeared to be biased accounts provided by Juan Gonzales and other writers of Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News.
Court Rules Against Accusers Katz & Stringer - but You'd Never Know it by Reading Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News
On August 31, 2016, in the ruling of United States District Judge Allyne R. Ross, Thomas Galante got a first taste of what seemed to be a fair hearing. Judge Ross' ruling requires the Queens Library to pay Thomas Galante's legal fees to defend himself against accusations by the Queens Library regarding his stewardship of the non-profit.
The newly reconstituted Queens Library Board of Trustees had filed a suit against Galante after he had filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the library. One might interpret this as an intimidation tactic by the newly reconstituted Queens Library, as legal fees are very expensive and it will cost Galante hundreds of thousands (if not more) to enforce his rights. Galante will have to reimburse the Queens Library if the Queens Library's assertions against him hold up in court.
I wonder if the current members of the Queens Library Board of Trustees have to meet the same standard, in order to have the library pay for their legal fees.
It's worth mentioning that Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News took the lead in most or all of the stories to date about the Queens Library - crafting the storyline narrative about Queens Library 'corruption'. And yet, when I did a search for award-winning journalist Juan Gonzales' & Mortimer Zuckerman's NY Daily News follow on story announcing Thomas Galante's recent court victory against Katz's & Stringer's Queens Library - there was none to be found. This sort of information omission / biased reporting by one of NYC's three daily newspapers is more akin to self-serving propaganda than American journalism.
If Galante Succeeds He Will Clear Not Only His Own Name, but also the Queens Library's & its Former Trustees'
If Galante succeeds in clearing his own name, he will also succeed in restoring the stellar reputation of the Queens Library and the reputations of the former trustees sacked by current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Did the Queens Library Reform Act Enable Pols to Morph the Queens Library into a Political Patronage Parking Lot?
It's also worth mentioning that a couple of years ago interested observers expressed concern that the Queens Library would be morphed into a Political Patronage Parking Palace for under-employed or unemployed party apparatchiks. It's been just over two years since Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Katz-inspired legislation, entitled the Queens Library Reform Act, and it appears that this may already be happening.
Earlier this year, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz's newly reconstituted Board of Trustees appointed former NYC Schools Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, as the Queens Library President. Based on my research into Dennis Walcott's background, it appears that he has no formal higher education in library science, nor does he have any professional experience in it.
Click here to view our complete coverage of the Queens Library 'corruption & scandals' accusing Thomas Galante of wrongdoing.
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- August 5, 2014 - Queens Library Trustees File Lawsuit Against Queens Borough President Melinda Katz et al
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Queens Library has been one of the top performing public libraries in the nation and was also believed to be fiscally well managed. In January 2014 the NY Daily News published stories with leaked confidential library information sensationalizing the CEO's compensation and authorized expenditures.
The following is a series about the events following the publication of the leaked confidential information.
The FBI, NYC Department of Investigation and NYC Comptroller's Office are continuing nearly year long investigations. As of the end of 2014 no announcement of any wrongdoing has been made.
We are also awaiting the release of a Whistleblower investigation as several FOIL requests have been made to the Queens Library & Queens Borough President's Office which to date have been ignored or denied.
Galante Dismissed by Queens Library Board
Statement Says Dismissal is "for Cause" - but no Specifics Given
Updated December 19 / December 17, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens Buzz.
We received this statement from the Queens Library regarding the sacking of the now former CEO of the Queens Library.
No Specific Cause Cited By Government Officials
"This evening, the Board of Trustees heard a report by counsel. Based on that and a prior report by counsel, a decision was made to terminate immediately Mr. Galante's employment. As the Library moves forward, the Board of Trustees will continue working to ensure greater transparency and the proper administration of the Library and its funds in furtherance of its mission. Queens Library will continue to provide outstanding value to the people of Queens."
Queens Borough President Katz issued a press release that essentially provided the same information.
A subsequent statement issued by the Queens Library said that the Board of Trustees vote was unanimous and that Galante was dismissed "for cause". When we inquired what the cause for dismissal was, they declined to comment further. The question now becomes whether former Queens Library CEO Galante will contest the judgment, because a $2 million severance package is at stake.
Daily News Alleges That Galante Terminated For "Wild Spending"
According to a December 18, 2014 Daily News headline:
"Queens Library Director Thomas Galante fired for his wild spending habits".
Government & Library Officials Will Not Confirm Daily News Statement
We asked both the Queens Library spokesperson and the Queens Borough President's Office to confirm the Daily News statement and neither would. Both the Queens Library and the Queens Borough President stuck to the printed statements as shown above.
We made an effort to contact his lawyer for comment and this was their reply.
"Tom Galante devoted 27 years of his professional career to the Queens Library, the past eleven 11 as its President and Chief Executive Officer. So, of course, Tom is disappointed by the action taken by the newly reconstituted Board of Trustees. He is extremely proud of his service to the Library and his accomplishments for the people of Queens. As Gabriel Taussig, Esq., the current Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Jacqueline E. Arrington, then Chair of the Administrative Committee, stated back in February, “The Queen’s Library’s record of accomplishment and its tremendous success as a leader in the field and as a critical resource for the people of Queens is largely attributable to Mr. Galante’s leadership.” Indeed, under Tom’s tenure, contributions to the Library increased by millions of dollars, and the Library has been recognized nationally as a role model and innovator, receiving the 2009 Library Journal’s “Library of the Year” Award and the 2014 ALA/Information Today “Library of the Future” Award, to name just two significant achievements under Tom’s leadership. For the past year Tom has been under constant attack in press accounts that have been based on inappropriate comments about and leaks of Library information. Because of his integrity and respect for the Library as an institution, Tom has chosen not to respond in the press. When he does speak publicly, it will be in a forum that values the truth and not the half-truths and distortions that so far have monopolized the press accounts."
Click here to view our reporting on the Queens Library crisis this year.
Queens Library CEO Put On Administrative Leave
September 12, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens Buzz / By Michael Wood. The Queens Library Board of Trustees met Thursday evening. Three new trustees have been added to the Queens Library Board since the court denied the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requested by six Queens Library Trustees who were dismissed.
The Board approved a motion that places Queens Library CEO Thomas W. Galante on paid administrative leave, effective immediately. Bridget Quinn-Carey, the current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, will serve as Interim President and CEO.
The Board directed its Audit Committee to provide Comptroller Stringer full access to all financial documents from state, federal and private sources that he has requested. The Board will also investigate opportunities to resolve the current dispute through mutual agreement.
Click here for full coverage of the Queens Library Reform Bill, the Queens Library Trustees' dismissal and the important community issues and precedents associated with the Queens Library Trustees' lawsuit against Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Magistrate Judge James Ornstein Recommends Against Granting Six Former Trustees' Request for Injunction
Takes "Rare" Step of Providing Recommendation from the Bench
August 14, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens Buzz / By Michael Wood. Brooklyn Magistrate Judge James Ornstein forwarded the request for a preliminary injunction by the six recently dismissed Queens Library Trustees, onto Judge Margo Brodie with a report and recommendation [R&R] against granting the preliminary injunction to allow the trustees to remain in their positions pending a review of their lawsuit.
On August 13, 2014 the NY Daily News reported:
Their [six former Queens Library Trustees] lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Federal Court argued that the trustees' free speech rights under the First Amendment had been violated, but Orenstein disagreed.
"They were not speaking as citizens ... They were removed for the way they performed their jobs, not the content of their speech" ...
The Queens Chronicle on August 12, 2014 quoted a source who told them:
"I think it's worth noting that it's rare for a magistrate judge to dictate a report and recommendation from the bench," the source said. "The judge felt strongly enough about what he had heard in arguments to render the decision then, and it was unequivocal."
We confirmed the former statement - that Magistrate Judge recommendations are not commonplace - by using search results as a proxy to gain some sense of the number of reports & recommendations made in the Brooklyn Court in the past decade. We reviewed the cases presented using the search 'Brooklyn Magistrate Judge issues recommendation' in the first three pages of the two search engines [Google & Yahoo] and found seven cases over the course of the past decade.
Over the past decade, two of the seven Magistrate Judge recommendations we found coming from the U.S. Eastern District Court of New York in Brooklyn, were issued by Judge James Ornstein. The first recommendation was in connection with a Visa/MasterCard anti-trust suit in 2008. Judge Ornstein's recommendation in the MasterCard case was at first accepted and then overturned according to the notes contained on page 126 of the MasterCard Annual Report of 2008.
A recommendation by a Magistrate Judge is just that - a recommendation, not a final verdict. The six former trustees have said they will continue to go forward with the lawsuit.
Queens Library Leads The Pack
Teams With Google To Bridge Digital Divide
In November of 2013 the Queens Libary teamed with Google to roll out 5,000 tablets via Queens Library card checkouts to help provide information access to people living in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The tablets contain online as well as offline information which is updated when the tablet is within the Queens Library. Queens Library President Thomas Galante said that this program was part of the Queens Library initiative to help bridge the information divide by using digital resources to provide additional access to information and education to Queens Library constituents.
The library's interface was given the Library of the Future Award by ALA / Information Today. The interface is icon driven to facilitate use by non-technological people and contains content curated by the Queens Library so that some portion of the information is available whether the user is online or offline. Given the language diversity of the Queens Libary constituency, Google Translate was made availabe on the tablet so that users can obtain translations into their native languages.
Award Winning Queens Libraries: Governance & Politics
This year the governance of the Queens Library has become the subject of much public posturing and political debate by Queens & NYC government officials. While the issues in question continue to be debated, it's worth mentioning that the Queens Library has long been recognized by national library publications and organizations as one of the nation's best libraries.
In addition to being named in the award above, the Queens Library won the Top Innovator Award in 2013 by the Urban Libraries Council, the Library of the Year Award in 2009 from the Library Journal and just last year the Corona Library was among the first to win the 2014 NYC Neighborhood Library Awards with citations for helping people who are learning English as a Second Language, providing after school homework facilities, school course book access and internet access.
The Queens Tribune published an editorial which they've given us permission to post in our Queens Op Ed section which we thought you might find of interest. Learn on.
Click here to read our report on the Queens Library Reform Bill: Quality & Controversy.
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