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Public Employee Press
Local 1321 hopes for better labor management relations after trustees suspended embattled Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante
By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Now that he's gone, Queens Library Local 1321 is cautiously hopeful that his departure will mark the beginning of an improved relationship with management.
Furthermore, the local is ready to play an active role in repairing the library's damaged credibility that resulted from the revelations of the alleged corrupt practices of Galante, who faces investigations by the FBI, New York City Office of the Comptroller and the city Dept. of Investigations.
"We want to move on," said Local 1321 President John Hyslop.
In a positive step, the acting head of the library, Bridget Quinn-Carey, who previously served as the chief operations officer, reached out to Hyslop on Sept. 12, the day after the Board of Trustees voted in a closed-door session to place Galante on administrative leave with pay while the investigations continue.
In her conversation with Hyslop, Quinn-Carey said she hopes labor-management relations would improve. She told Hyslop that the library expected to comply with a freedom of information request the local made on Sept. 2.
Prepared with the help of DC 37 General Counsel's Office, the request asks the library to provide the union with the contracts for farmed-out work, records of what QBPL spends on contract security guards and custodians, a list of temporary and permanent part-time employees, information about public and private grants, as well as background on the library's universal pre-kindergarten program, job information centers and summer lunch program.
As the long-time head of the popular public library, Galante once enjoyed a prestigious high-profile status in the Queens community and political establishment. That makes his spectacular crash seem like the stuff of a Greek tragedy, if only he once was a person of impeccable moral integrity.
His fall from being a community leader and head of a beloved institution to a disgraced managerial hack tainted by corruption and possible criminal charges stems from an exposé in the Daily News by Juan Gonzalez earlier this year about his lavish spending, anti-labor practices and sweet employment contract.
Galante spent $140,000 on renovating his second-floor Central Library office, a project that included creating a private outdoor lounge where he enjoyed smoking cigars. Apart from his salary of nearly $400,000, he received $37,000 for a Nissan 370Z sports car. The final major blow came with the newspaper's subsequent reporting about his nearly $300,000 in consulting work for Long Island's Elmont Union Free School District and his relationship with a contractor for Queens Library projects.
The revelations about the outlandish spending and undisclosed outside consultant work led to an oversight hearing by the City Council. The credibility of the library was damaged as the trustees stood by the tone-deaf Galante, who defended his record and his high salary, which is higher than that of the mayor ($225,000) and schools chancellor ($220,000).
A majority of the QBPL Board of Trustees - behaving much like a corporate board - rallied behind Galante as political leaders like Queens Borough President Melinda R. Katz, state Sens. Tony Avella and Michael Gianaris, state Assembly member Jeffrion Aubry, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and members Elizabeth Crowley and Rory Lancman spoke out.
A rotten labor policy
With the trustees refusing to suspend or fire Galante, the state legislators, with support from the union, successfully pushed for legislation signed into law this summer by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that allowed for the dismissal of trustees and greater accountability at the library. New appointments by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Katz changed the composition of the board, allowing for Galante's suspension in September.
Local 1321 was able to take advantage of the library's loss of public credibility by pushing QBPL to agree to rehire 40 members just a month before a four-year callback period was set to expire. In the last budget round, the City Council restored significant funding to the library. The additional funds and Galante's lucrative payroll package and lavish spending made it difficult for the library to continue to claim it couldn't afford to employ the dismissed unionized workers.
As for Local 1321, Hyslop said it will continue its aggressive fight-back campaign against the library's use of contract security guards and custodians.
"He had a bad labor-relations policy," Hyslop said of his former adversary. "He fired both union and non-union workers. He always disrespected us and was deceitful about contracting out."