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Stringer audit says Queens Library executives partied with public funds

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer attends the

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer attends the National Action Network national convention on April 8, 2015 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released an audit Wednesday charging Queens Library executives used public funds as their "personal piggy bank," spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on prohibited items including liquor, airplane seat upgrades and tickets to a Maroon 5 concert and Disneyland.

Library chief executive and president Thomas Galante, ousted in December, and other top staffers spent frivolously between 2007 and 2013 and hiked up their salaries while cutting library hours and claiming to run a deficit, Stringer said at a news conference in Astoria.

"As they were scaling back access to books, the Internet and vital programs and services, they were lining their own pockets," Stringer said.

The findings were referred to law enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service, Stringer said.

Galante's successor, Bridget Quinn-Carey, formerly the chief operating officer, was also cited in the investigation.

She and Galante charged $310,000 in expenses violating policies to their library credit cards, with Galante spending $260,000, Stringer said. Quinn-Carey had $16,000 in expenses on which she may owe personal income tax; Galante had $100,000, the comptroller said.

Galante billed Long Island's Elmont Union Free School District as much as $200,000 annually between 2005 and 2014, including for more than five hours on days he claimed to be working full time for the library, the audit found.

His attorney, Manhattan-based Hillary Prudlo, released a statement saying, "There are factual errors and omissions in the audit report."

She added, "Mr. Galante has not violated the law or been involved in any improprieties with respect to any matter throughout his career."

Elmont superintendent of schools Albert Harper in a statement said he had not seen and had no comment on the audit. Galante continues to work for the district as a financial consultant, Harper said.

The executives' improper spending included almost $46,000 over three years on food and alcoholic beverages for meals attended by library board, the audit found.

Library board of trustees chairman Carl S. Koerner in a statement did not address Quinn-Carey, but said the system has launched reforms, including increased transparency and internal accountability and ending "excessive, unquestioned over-expenditures."

"Like other investigations into the library's finances over the past year, today's audit confirms many disturbing practices of the library's prior director and its complacent former trustees," he said.

The audit was the Queens Library system's first full investigation in two decades, said Stringer, who was only recently granted total access to its financial records.

A look into the Brooklyn and New York library systems found no malfeasance, he said.

The New York Daily News first reported on Galante's extravagant spending, including thousands of dollars on office furniture and a smoking deck.

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