Library Boondoggle Forces FBI Investigation

Thomas Galante makes over $300 thousand a year and has spent upwards of a $1 million on renovations to library offices, which has called for an FBI investigation. (NY.GOV)
Thomas Galante makes over $300 thousand a year and has spent upwards of a $1 million on renovations to library offices, which has called for an FBI investigation. (NY.GOV)

In early March numerous New York City news outlets reported that Thomas Galante, the Queensborough Public Library President and CEO, was under investigation by the New York City’s Department of Investigations and the FBI.
      News of the investigations followed a series of stories by The New York Daily News about Galante’s income, his side jobs and his involvement with numerous renovation contracts.
     Federal investigators reportedly went to the Central Library branch in Jamaica serving subpoenas to Galante and Frank Marino, a construction consultant working at the Elmont Union Free School District who oversaw 15 projects for the Queens Library since 2008. Galante held a part-time consulting position at the same school system.
     Beginning in 2008, renovations for the library began with the children’s center and have been completed section-by-section in order for the library to still remain open year round. The teen and adult centers have already been finalized, while the circulation and entry area is still in progress. Renovations were scheduled to continue at a gift shop and café next, and finish off with the lower level, which includes the auditorium.
     “The Central Library renovation project cost $20 million not counting the Children’s Library Discovery Center which was a separate project altogether,” said Joanne King, Queens Library Director.
     Rumors spread through the mainstream media that the Queens Library’s central branch, which houses Galante’s executive office, included an outside deck for meetings that the CEO uses for cigarette breaks as part of the renovations.
     “There is no private smoking deck. There is a conference area. It is not private. It is not for smoking,” said King.
     Since 2008, the library had received more than 85 percent of its funding from the city according to King. More than 250 library jobs have been lost, most to natural attrition and there was a hiring freeze in place since 2008. The library is now beginning to re-hire.
     Councilman and newly appointed Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the chairman of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, has called an oversight hearing on the renovations and library operations in general in response to determine if taxpayer dollars were used to fund Galante’s outdoor deck and office renovations.
     “As majority leader of the City Council and as Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries, and with the support of speaker Melissa Mark Viverito (D-Manhattan), I am calling for an immediate oversight hearing on the Queens Library, its Central Library project, and its operations,” said Bramer in a prepared statement.
     City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that he would conduct comprehensive audits not just of the Queens Library, but of all three of New York City’s library systems.
     In response to the recent allegations, the Queens Library released a fact sheet that claims no public funds were used to renovate Galante’s offices.
     “Transparency and responsible spending are our obligation and an integral part of the way Queens Library does business,” said King in a statement. “Queens Library will be providing the City Council with all the testimony necessary to understand our operations. It is our honor to serve the people of Queens with life-enriching programs and services, from 65 library locations serving over 40,000 people a day.”
     While Galante maintained strong support from the QL Board of Trustees, the controversy resulted in state senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) calling on Galante to step down, which he refused to do as of this publication.

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