Queens Buzz .com  Log-In

 
galante sacked galante dismissed daily news coverage queens library daily news

A Closer Look into Role of the Daily News Coverage in Takeover of Queens Library

  • Real Estate Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's Daily News Continuously Portrays the Fiscally Sound, Award Winning Queens Library Board of Trustees & CEO in a Negative Light

  • While Lauding the Brooklyn Public Library Trustees for Sale of Real Estate to Developer to Obtain Needed $40 Million Cash

  • The Queens Library has 62 Branch Locations Sitting Atop Some of the Best Real Estate in Queens Worth Hundred$ of Million$ or more

  • Queensborough President Melinda Katz Appears to have had Prior Relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as Lobbyist

daily news coverage of queens library thomas galanteUpdated December 20, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens News Analysis & Opinion - Issues / Queens Buzz. First posted December 16, 2014.

 

Please note that to date no public official have spoken about any development deals using Queens Library property.

 

Daily News Publication of Leaks with No Announcement of Real Wrongdoing - What Happened to Presumption of Innocence?

I’m going to work under the assumption that Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante is innocent of all charges until proven guilty. That is the way things are supposed to be done in America.

Many leaks of all kinds of confidential information about the Queens Library CEO have made their way into Real Estate Billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman's Daily News this year - including plenty of minutiae - but not a single word about any real wrongdoing.

Daily News Headlines Appear to Play Role in Queens Library Takeover - Urging Replacement of Governance Team

The Daily News appears to have done more than just report on the Queens Library crisis of confidence. In fact, the Daily News was the first to report the crisis - and they appear to have played a major role throughout it - as their organization urged the dismissal of Galante and the trustees who supported him on numerous occasions in the headlines alone. The following are some examples of headlines taken from stories in the NY Daily News:

  • March 31, 2014 - Headline reads: "Turn The Page On Tom / Why the Queens Library Chief can no longer be trusted"
  • June 27, 2014 - Headline reads: "Sack them all / Bye-bye to Queens Library chief Tom Galante — and the board members who enabled his reign of greed"
  • July 24, 2014 - Headline reads: "Sack Galante next / Incompetent Queens Library board being dismantled"
  • December 11, 2014 - Headline reads: "Fat city fathead / Thousands of reasons to fire Tom Galante"

The Daily News - Name Calling CEO Galante in its Editorial Coverage

daily news coverage queens libraryLast week, the Daily News provided the public with more details of Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante’s expense reports over the past (few) year(s). Their presentation of the information appeared one-sided and cast Queens Library CEO in a negative light, as little effort seems to have been made to explain the business purpose or provide context for the expenditures.

The Daily News also published an editorial, which resorted to name-calling including calling Galante:

  • “fathead”
  • "little piggy"
  • "emperor"
  • and characterizing his spending as “preposterous”

This was not the first time they called him names in their publication this year.

We'll explore recent coverage by the Daily News in a more detail further down in this report, as it is reflective of their coverage of this crisis of confidence in the Queens Library all year. A crisis which the Daily News in fact began, with a series of exclusive reports earlier in the year.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Appears To Have Had Prior Relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a Lobbyist

According to a source, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz appears to have had prior relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as a lobbyist working for Greenberg Traurig law firm in 2012.

A New York Observer story dated, April 10, 2012, states:

"... Still, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has expressed skepticism toward the project, which he would like to see reduced in size, and the community panned the rezoning outright."

"To help makes its case, NYU recently retained Ed Wallace and Melinda Katz, two land-use attorneys who have helped shape a number of important development projects as they wended their way through public review—not least because both of them also once spent time as members of the  City Council, the body that will have the ultimate say on NYU’s rezoning."

And a bit later in the story.

"Mr. Wallace served as the councilman-at-large for Manhattan and chief of  staff to the council president back in the old days of the Board of Estimate, after which he joined Mort Zuckerman’s Boston Properties before moving over to Greenberg Traurig, the law firm where he is now co-managing partner of the New York office. Ms. Katz joined the firm in 2010 as a partner in the real estate division after serving two terms in the council, one of which was spent as chair of the influential land-use committee, where she oversaw a number of redevelopments similar to NYU’s."

The NYC government maintains a website showing registered lobbyists' relationships with clients. We took this image from the NYC.gov website which shows that from March through December of 2012 - one year before she became Queens Borough President - Melinda Katz was a registered lobbyist working for the lawfirm of Greenberg Traurig, with a client relationship with Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties.

melinda katz former lobbyist for boston properties

 

Click here to read our report regarding the Queens Library controversy and the Daily News reporting of it.


A Closer Look into the Role of the Daily News Coverage in Takeover of Queens Library

  • Zuckerman's Daily News Continuously Portrays the Fiscally Sound, Award Winning Queens Library Board of Trustees & CEO in a Negative Light

  • While Lauding the Brooklyn Public Library Trustees for Sale of Real Estate to Developer to Obtain Needed $40 Million Cash

  • The Queens Library has 62 Branch Locations Sitting Atop Some of the Best Real Estate in Queens Worth Hundred$ of Million$ or more

  • Queensborough President Melinda Katz Appears to have had Prior Relationship with Daily News Owner Mortimer Zuckerman's Boston Properties as Lobbyist

Updated December 20, 2014 / Queens Library / Queens News Analysis & Opinion - Issues / Queens Buzz. CONTINUED.

Presumption Of Guilt Facilitates Takeover & Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law

The award winning, fiscally sound Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante appears to have been presumed to be guilty from the start of the year and is still under clouds of suspicion - even though there hasn't been any announcement of wrongdoing. On Wednesday, December 17th, QBP Katz will likely succeed in removing him and her control of the Queens Library will be complete. While Mayor de Blasio has an equal voice in the organization, he is expected to generally defer to her guidance.

And then - the long overdue announcements or reports by the three investigative organizations - which have been evaluating the Queens Library over the past ten months - likely won’t affect who is in control. Even if their reports show that the Queens Library and its CEO are as clean as a whistle.

Scott Stringer Announces NYC Libraries Audit Starting With Queens Library on January 29, 2014 - one day After Daily News Publication of Leaked Info

One day after the Daily News published leaked confidential information of Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante's compensation, company car, office remodeling and second gig - the NYC Comptroller's Office lead by Scott Stringer announced that they would be conducting an audit of the NYC Library system. His office issued a press release stating that:

"New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer announced today he will audit New York City’s three library systems, starting with an audit engagement letter sent yesterday to Thomas W. Galante, President and CEO of the Queens Borough Public Library."

Scott Stringer is quoted in the press release:

“Our public libraries are vital resources for New Yorkers and taxpayers deserve to know that public money is being used appropriately,” Stringer said. “My auditors will assess whether the spending practices of our library systems follow applicable rules and prudent business practices. We want our libraries to maximize the value of the public funds they receive while finding ways that they can be more efficient and effective from top to bottom.”

QBP Katz and the ‘Bully Pulpit’

melinda katz photo queens libraryDuring the campaign, QBP candidate Melinda Katz made reference to using the ‘bully pulpit’ as one of the tools in the arsenal of the Queens Borough President. The bully pulpit is a:

“a position that is sufficiently conspicuous for one to speak out on things and be listened to”.

President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term. It was a memorable comment, because of its insight into the use of political power.

Where’s the Transparency: Some FOIL Requests Granted & Some Not

In one of her most recent press releases, QBP Katz lauded the insertion of the public’s ability to make Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] requests to the library because of the newly enacted Queens Library Reform Act. She hailed it as a new era of transparency.

queens library sacks ceo galante foil requestsAnd yet QBP Katz’s own office and newly installed Queens Library Board of Trustees seem to expedite Daily News FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] requests, while ignoring and denying the FOIL requests made by the six former Queens Library trustees over three months ago.

On November 7, 2014, Douglas Grover, attorney for the six former Queens Library Trustees, sent an appeal to the attorney of the Queens Public Library to quit denying the public access to view the findings of Whistleblower Complaint filed by former Queens Library Trustee George Stamatiades.

"I am writing to appeal the Queens Borough Public Library's denial of the information requested by George Stamatiades (the "whistleblower"), Joseph Ficarola, Jacqueline Arrington, Terri Mangino, William Jefferson, and Grace Lawrence (collectively with Stamatiades the "former trustees") pursuant to New York Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") as set forth in Article 6 of New York Public Officers Law (the "FOIL Law").

Specifically, in a letter dated October 9, 2014, the Library's Records Access Officer denied the information requested by the former trustees in a letter dated September 15, 2014, in connection with the whistleblower investigation ("First FOIL Request"). On November 4, 2014, the Library Records Access Officer denied items (a) and (e) requested by the former trustees in a letter dated October 2, 2014 ("Second FOIL Request"). Item (a) is a request for the report prepared by former federal judge Barbara S. Jones, who conducted the whistleblower investigation; a report that was initiated by Mr. Stamatiades' complaint. Item (c) relates to communications surrounding a meeting of the Board of Trustees held on September 11, 2014, at which time the whistleblower complaint was discussed."

QBP Katz Began Work on the Reform Act Two Weeks Prior to Investigations & Less Than Three Weeks After First Leaks

On January 28, 2014 the Daily News published leaked confidential Queens Library information detailing the Queens Library CEO’s salary, cost of company car, office remodeling costs and that he had a second gig. The report sensationalized the leaked confidential information and presented it without much balance or context.

And so the crisis of confidence in the award winning, fiscally sound Queens Public Library began.

Whistleblower Complaint Filed to Investigate Leak & Breach of Fiduciary Obligation

A Whistleblower Complaint was filed alleging that QBP Melinda Katz Office leaked the confidential information, in a breach of her office’s fiduciary obligation to the Queens Library. The suit was dropped by the six former trustees in late November, citing time and resource constraints.

Wikipedia describes a fiduciary relationship as:

“In a fiduciary relationship, one person, in a position of vulnerability, justifiably vests confidence, good faith, reliance, and trust in another whose aid, advice or protection is sought in some matter. In such a relation good conscience requires the fiduciary to act at all times for the sole benefit and interest of the one who trusts.”

In the United States of America breach of a fiduciary obligation is illegal.

Queens Library Reform Act Redundant to Nonprofit Revitalization Act - Except for the Library Change of Control

Once the leaked confidential information was made public by the Daily News, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz used it to initiate legislation to reform the allegedly “out of control spending” of Queens Library. In fact, only three weeks after the first Daily News ‘exclusive’ report about the Queens Library spending, she informed the Queens Library Board of Trustees in a February 18, 2014 letter, that she had already initiated an effort to draft legislation to ‘reform’ the Queens Library governance. Katz's February 18th letter said:

“Finally, please be advised that I am working together with Assembly Member, and Speaker temp ore Jeffrion Aubry to introduce state legislation that would codify the best practices outlined above … These measures would also modernize the appointment and removal structure for the Board of Trustees.”

Thus QBP Katz’s reform effort, which included obtaining governance control, began weeks before the investigative organizations were reported to have started looking into any possibly wrongdoing in the Queens Public Library’s affairs.

And nearly all of the legislation - save the change in governance / control of the library's board of trustees and approval of key hires - was redundant to the Nonprofit Revitalization Act passed just a year earlier which the Queens Library was in the midst of implementing.

queens library reform act

By May New NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer goes to Court Seeking to Audit Queens Library Non Profit Foundation

By early May 2014, three months after NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announced he would be auditing the Queens Library, he went to court to seek access to the financial statements of the non-profit segment of the Queens Library. In a May 22, 2014 story, the Queens Tribune reported:

"This week, in an interview with the Queens Tribune, City Comptroller Scott Stringer revealed that his case against Queens Library has made its way to court and that he is confident there will be a ruling in his favor."

Comptroller Hevesi made a similar effort to obtain access to the privately funded segment of the Queens Library in 1997. There was a court agreement made at the time, with which the Queens Library had complied. According to a report in the Queens Ledger dated May 14, 2014, a Stringer spokesperson explained why they were going to court, given there was a court agreement with Hevesi in 1997.

melinda kata photo scott stringer photo"Stringer has taken the Queens Library to court, because, according to Stringer spokesman Eric Sumberg, he believes the law created under Hevesi’s leadership is

“inappropriate, immoral and unlawful.”"

The Queens Chronicle May 9, 2014 report included a joint Katz-Stringer press release which included the following.

“What happened last night at the Queens Borough Public Library was a disgrace,” Comptroller Stringer said. “It is a shame that the members of the Queens Library board who voted against their own colleagues’ resolution have continued to embrace library management’s anti-transparency policies. No public entity is above the law. Parliamentary maneuvers may buy them some time, but rest assured that I am determined to make sure that taxpayers know how their money is being spent at this library system.”

The NYC Comptroller's Office has had full access to the publicly funded portion of the Queens Library since Andrew Carnegie donated the funds to create it a century ago.

And nearly a year after Stringer's NYC Comptroller's Office began its audit, there's been plenty of public innuendo, but no announcement of any real wrongdoing.

Haste Makes Waste: Legislation to ‘Reform’ the Library Passed Long Before Investigators Tell Us If Anything is Even Wrong

queens library dismisses galanteQBP Katz used the Daily News press reports of leaked confidential Queens Library Board of Trustees information to get the NYS legislators to pass legislation reforming the Queens Library. The Queens Library Reform Act was passed in June 2014.

The NYS law was passed well in advance of the investigative organizations completing their probes - because almost ten months later completion of the investigative evaluations has not been publicly announced. The Queens Library Reform Act essentially gave the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz control of the Queens Library Board of Trustees and approval of all new key hires.

But CEO Thomas Galante remained in her way.

Daily News Exclusive - Select Details from Queens Library Accounts

As mentioned above, the NYC Comptroller has had access to and audited the 85% of the library that is publicly funded for the past century. And the NYC Comptroller has had unfettered access to the 15% of the Queens Library that is privately funded, for over three months.

By October 3, 2014 plenty of detail about Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante’s expenses were released. The information was first published in a Daily News Exclusive report which included the following second headline.

"City Controller Scott Stringer was 'deeply troubled' to uncover Galante's misuse of tax dollars in his review of library finances from fiscal year 2013."

The expenses were released by the Daily News with little explanation of their business purpose.

We asked both the NYC and NYS Comptroller's Offices if it was typical for an auditor to comment on an audit prior to completion. The NYS Comptroller's Office replied that,

"We generally DON'T comment on audits until they are complete"

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer's office has not responded to our inquiry asking them on how many other audits have they made public comments this year, prior to the completion of the audit.

Daily News Front Page Headline Accuses Galante of “Cookin’ The Books”

A couple of visuals were included with the most recent Daily News story to lend impact and possibly credence to their reports. They included front-page images of their own newspaper, on of which was published on March 28, 2014 which in tabloid fashion screams:

" Galante “‘Cookin’ The Books”

I looked that phrase up and here’s what I found.

“a frequent practice of lying and cheating in any record bookkeeping, in order to substantially increase your own personal profit and earnings. Or knowingly providing incorrect information in a company’s financial statements.”

That claim has not been substantiated based on any of the Daily News reports I have read to date.

Daily News Criticizes Galante’s International Travel Without Reference to the Fact That Queens Serves the Most Ethnically Diverse Population in the World, Half of Whom Have International Origins

The Daily News reporting includes listing the cities Galante visited on his company expense account including international trips. They questioned why a Queens Library CEO might attend international conferences and mostly didn’t explain why. Here’s what the Daily News reported on December 11, 2014:

queens library trustees galante“The records, dating from December 2011, also reveal numerous all-expense-paid trips Galante took on supposed library business to cities like Barcelona; Amsterdam; Athens; Helsinki; Aspen, Colo., and Newport Beach, Calif.”

I found someone close to the Queens Library who informed me that the Galante trips were to library conferences hosted by the American Library Association, the International Library Association and the Public Library Association as well as a number of more regional library groups.

It's worth noting that several substantive book donations have been made to the Queens Library from other parts of the world, including from the Middle East and China, to help serve Queens ethnically diverse population. One source informed me that CEO Galante was a library professional who kept abreast of changes in the industry and developed relationships with his peers in the nation and around the world. This source said that Galante's passion for library science was one of the reasons why the Queens Library is such an award winning organization.

Daily News Omission - Nothing About Queens as an Award Winning, Fiscally Sound Library

award winning queens library The Daily News, throughout most or possibly all of its reporting of the Queens Library in 2014, fails to mention that Queens Library is and has been an award winning library for many of the years that CEO Thomas Galante has been in office.

The Queens Library is highly successful, well regarded by its peers, and had a sterling reputation prior to the Daily News reports that there was something wrong. And to date the library is fiscally sound.

Daily News Ownership - Real Estate Developer Mortimer Zuckerman

The Daily News used to be owned by the Chicago Tribune Newspaper Company. The Daily News circulation peaked in 1947 when they had 2.7 million readers daily and 4.7 million on Sunday [Wikipedia]. It was acquired by real estate investment trust billionaire Mortimer Zuckerman sometime in the 1990’s. Mortimer Zuckerman is the founder of Boston Properties, which recently bought the Citibank Center in Midtown NYC from Allied Partners Inc. Zuckerman remains active in business.

The Daily News newspaper circulation losses appear to have continued as in 2006 they were reported to have a circulation of 795,000 [Infoplease] and in 2013 a circulation of 400,000 [Journalism.org].

Daily News Lauds Cash Strapped Brooklyn Library Property Sale

In a September 22nd, 2014 Daily News story, the Daily News hailed the Brooklyn Library Trustees’ sale of its property to a real estate developer, Hudson Inc. The following was their opening paragraph.

“The Brooklyn Public Library’s trustees have approved an extraordinarily good deal for their cash-strapped system that would establish a brand-new outpost in Brooklyn Heights to be paid for by the sale to a developer of the city-owned land on which a branch now sits.”

A bit further into the editorial:

"If, that is, the City Council and City Planning Commission give the green light. They should, for the sake of Brooklyn Heights and all the borough’s libraries.

The best part of the story: a projected $40 million for repairs to crumbling branches in less glossy parts of the borough."

And they dismiss those who differ with their opinion with the following:

“The streets of the Heights echo with charges that the library system is selling its soul. Nonsense. Brooklyn’s 60-branch network has piled up some $300 million in major construction costs. The city budget’s contribution for that purpose this year: just $20.8 million.”

In a September 18, 2014 post, the Real Deal noted that the total value of the Hudson bid to develop the Brooklyn Heights Library property was $60 million.

While funding is always an issue, it appears that Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante managed the Queens Public Library prudently enough so that it is not cash strapped, and not yet in the position where it has to sell the land it sits on because it needs cash.

If one Brooklyn Library Deal Is Valued At $60 Million & Yields $40 Million Cash - Then What's the Total Potential Value of Development Deals on 62 Queens Library Properties? Hundred$ of Million$ or more

Please note that to date no public official has spoken about any development deals using Queens Library property.

The development deal for the Brooklyn Heights Public Library received approval by its Board of Trustees in September 2014. The last report we found indicated that they must obtain approval by City Hall - the current status of which we were unable to obtain as of this writing.

Here are just a few Queens Libraries of the 62 Branch Locations Sitting Atop Queens Prime Real Estate

The Queens Library has 62 libraries, some or most of which were funded by Andrew Carnegie when he founded the Queens Library in a contract with the city and state a century ago. He took great pains, over the course of a decade, to ensure an independent library governance in the contract, which QBP Katz's Queens Library Reform Act recently gutted in June of 2014.

Queens Library has branches sitting on large swaths of valuable Queens real estate in all parts of Queens. The following are a few examples:

  • Astoria / LIC on Broadway near Steinway and 21st Street blocks from Queens Plaza and on Broadway off Steinway Street
  • Bayside on Bell Blvd and on Northern Blvd
  • Corona on 104th Street only steps away from the #7 subway and on Northern Blvd
  • Douglaston on Northern Blvd
  • Flushing on Main Street only a couple blocks away from the #7 subway [some prices over $500 / square foot]
  • Forest Hills on 71st Avenue
  • Glen Oaks & Hillcrest along the Union Turnpike
  • Howard Beach along 156th Avenue
  • Jackson Heights on 81st Street off 37th Avenue
  • Jamaica off Jamaica Avenue on Merrick and on 137th Street and on Guy Brewer Blvd
  • Long Island City on Court Square in the Citibank Building [prices over $300 / square foot]
  • Rego Park on 63rd Drive
  • Richmond Hill on Hillside Avenue
  • Ridgewood on Madison Street
  • Rockaway Beach Blvd
  • Sunnyside on Greenpoint Avenue
  • Whitestone on 14th Avenue and on 14th Road
  • Woodside on Skillman Avenue steps from Roosevelt Avenue

Katz’s New Queens Library Board of Trustees Was Expected to Issue Report on Galante Expenses & Then Sack Him

According to a December 11, 2014 Daily News story, the newly re-constituted Queens Library Board of Trustees would issue their own report regarding CEO Thomas Galante’s spending. The Daily News seemed to indicate that all of the expenses were authorized, while opining and characterizing the spending as “wild” and “extravagant” and they noted that he would "possibly be dismissed". The Daily News informed us that CEO Thomas Galante

“could be fired following a review by the library’s new trustees into his wild spending”

Appearance of Legitimacy: The new Queens Library Board of Trustees Voted to Complete the Takeover

Did Queens Library Trustees risk being sacked if they had voted to oppose the removal of CEO Thomas Galante?

queens library & lincoln quoteAnd did the Queens Library Reform Act of June 2014 - which transferred the control of the Queens Library to the Queens Borough President and the Mayor by providing them with the authority to remove trustees on a weeks notice without redress - improve the governance of the Queens Library or harm it?

Andrew Carnegie, who would be a multi-billionaire today, gave back all of the wealth he accumulated to the people. He founded about half of the public libraries in America and in the course of setting up the Queens Public Library system took great pains over the course of a decade to create a governance structure that was independent from government officials / politicians. All of his work in this regard was undone in the past ten months of this year.

Is it better to have 19 trustees, appointed by different Mayors and Queens Borough Presidents, vote independently on the major issues and key hires of the Queens Library without fear of being dismissed? Or to have the Borough President and the Mayor make decisions about who is hired, how the library funds are allocated, whether library property should be sold or leased and to whom, and what content the public should be able to view in the Queens Public Library?

Thomas Jefferson said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of democracy." and "Those who think one can be ignorant and free, believe in something that never was and never will be."





Login and voice your opinion!