All this while overseeing a cash-strapped library system – funded almost entirely by taxpayers – that has seen its hours cut and workers go years without raises, or worse, laid off. (Approximately 250 of them since 2008.)
That was the tone that was set before Galante appeared before the City Council's Cultural Affairs and Library Committee last week to talk about his hefty salary (he makes more than twice as much as the mayor of New York City!) and perks.
Galante was grilled, but defended his salary saying it was competitive with other heads of nonprofits the size of the Queens Library, noting “you get what you pay for.”
“You are more in my eyes a city agency than a traditional nonprofit entity,” replied Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in published reports. “Your salary should be more at the level of a city commissioner.”
But with new revelations that Galante earns about $140,000 a year from a side gig as a business consultant to the Elmont Union Free School District while simultaneously running the most heavily used library system in the country just raised the temperature of that water more than a few degrees.
During the City Council hearing, Councilman Eric Ulrich asked Galante point blank if he had any additional outside income other than the $391,000 he earns as head of the Queens Library. Galante flat out refused to answer the question.
Now we know why.
According to an audit conducted by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in 2011, Galante billed the school district $150 an hour for approximately 22 hours of work per week. The audit specifically criticized the school district for letting Galante run the day-to-day spending from a remote computer and approving payments to himself.
If Galante never had to go to work at a school district office, more than one person has wondered if much of the work for the side gig was done on library time in his library office?
The school district eventually hired an in-house purchasing agent, but Galante remained its chief financial officer.
And on Monday, one elected official took the big leap. State Senator Tony Avella sent a letter to Galante asking him to resign.
“It is with deep sorrow that I am writing to you,” began Avella's letter, before bringing up the instances that first led to the controversy.
“I was shocked to learn of your $392,000 salary, which by any common sense standards, is out of line for your position,” Avella wrote. “It was further disturbing to learn of the reported tens of thousands of dollars spent on questionable office renovations.”
All that was bad enough, but Avella says the revelation that Galante also worked a side job for the Elmont School District was the last straw.
Now that Avella has broken the seal, it will be interesting to see how many elected officials follow his suit and call for Galante to step down.