The board members, who Borough President Melinda Katz removed on July 23, took Katz and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to federal court asking for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, which would allow them to keep their seats on the board.
Brooklyn Magistrate Judge James Orenstein heard the case and made the recommendation in favor of Katz. Magistrate judges often hear cases in federal court and then pass their recommendation on to the judge assigned to the case, which means the decision is not final.
U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie will have to make an official ruling, while the board members have until Aug. 29 to file objections and appeal Orenstein’s recommendation.
After the decision was made, representatives for the board members released a statement saying that the board will be “working throughout the months ahead to implement changes to the Library's by-laws mandated by state law, improve transparency and adopt best practices of not-for-profit corporate governance.”
“Our focus is not on the courtroom, but in the boardroom and at the branches across the borough that we are responsible for,” the statement read.
Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio removed eight board members in total after questions over the management of the library’s finances arose.
Specifically, the eight removed board members continued to support QPL CEO and President Thomas Galante, despite accusations that he was spending library funding on renovations to his own office and making too much money with a $400,000 salary considering he had a second, six-figure job on the side.
After they continued to allow Galante to be employed, and refused to give Comptroller Scott Stringer access to the books documenting their use of private funds and donations, Katz worked with state lawmakers to pass new legislation that would allow the borough president and mayor to remove board members that had been appointed by their respective positions.
The board members, on the other hand, argue the legislation is an invasion of the independence of the library as a private institution, which they say was created as such in order to avoid government interference.
Representatives of the board member’s have said that Katz’s actions are an “attempt to seize control of the Queens Library for her own political ends.”
Stringer disagreed, releasing a statement after Judge Orenstein’s decision recommending that the board vote to give him access to all of the necessary documents for his audit.
“The Queens Library trustees who brought this suit acted solely in their own interest and not the public's,” Stringer said. “My audit of the Queens Public Library was a direct response to allegations of gross mismanagement, self dealing and worse. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to serve the institution, not themselves.”
Meanwhile, the two board members that the mayor dismissed did not sue, and last week, de Blasio announced the appointment of a new board member.
Jukay Hsu is a Queens native from Flushing and a technology entrepreneur in Long Island City. He is the first person to fill one of the eight empty board member positions.
“I hope to positively contribute and will work to ensure that the Queens Library has the highest standards of corporate governance and fiduciary oversight, and remains a treasured institution that provides critical services to members of our community,” Hsu posted on his Facebook page following the announcement.
He also expressed his desire to use his background in the tech world to help guide the library into the digital age.
“I'm particularly excited to think about the changing role of the library system and support its evolution, particularly as the digital age continues to transform our relationship with books, community space, education, and access to opportunity,” he said.