The former head of the Queens Library and alongside other Library executives spent over $300,000 on extravagant dinners, concerts and alcohol,according to investigative reports released Wednesday by the New York City Comptroller.
The investigation claims that Thomas Galante, the former president of the Queens Borough Public Library, along with board members, used Library funds to buy themselves Apple TVs, airline upgrades, alcohol, rock concert tickets and passes to Disneyland. The executives did so while saying the Library was running a deficit, according to Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's audit.
“The Queens Library, once held up as a paragon for what an urban library system can be, was used for personal profit and pleasure,” Stringer said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “There’s no excuse for what went on here and Tom Galante should be held accountable for every cent he improperly spent.”
The investigation came about when Comptroller Stringer was finally allowed to view all the Library’s financial records in December 2014. Before then only two funds the Library claimed had City money could be viewed and investigated. A new QBPL Board of Directors fired Galante and removed this stipulation, allowing the Comptroller’s office to investigate the Library’s finances.
What they found was astounding.
Money down the drain:
Galante squandered money from accounts viewable to the public and put the money elsewhere. From 2008 to 2013 the Library appeared to run deficits between $5.7 million to $6.9 million. Galante used these numbers to ask City Council for more funds, said the investigative report. In reality the Library had between $17 to $27 million in unrestricted funds that it could use.
QBPL executives increased their own compensation by almost 7 percent while cutting Library staff’s salaries by 2.8 percent, according to the audit.
The list of luxuries:
Almost $2,000 was spent on Maroon 5 concert tickets for Galante, two other QBPL executives and an unnamed fourth party. Over three years the Board spent over $45,000 on food and alcohol. Galante spent over $22,000 on furniture and a smoking deck in his office.
Between July 2007 and December 2013 Galante made $670,000 in credit card charges that were allegedly not approved by the Library’s Chief Financial Officer or its board.
The new QBPL Board agreed with the audit and investigation findings.
“Overall, the audit findings were accurate in reflecting Library practices prior to the implementation of reforms and added internal controls, including new and revised policies and procedures; a process that is ongoing,” said the library.
With Galante gone and his spending brought to light Stringer urged the IRS to further investigate.
“Now that Tom Galante is gone and new board members have been put in place, it is my sincere hope that the long years of misconduct have finally come to an end, and that the Queens Library system will be run for the benefit of all the borough’s citizens, and not for the benefit of a few individuals,” Stringer said.