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OpinionEditorial

Probe Elmont schools consultant thoroughly

A well-funded national endowment could not only help

A well-funded national endowment could not only help upgrade libraries but also encourage Americans of all ages to make better and more frequent use of them. Credit: iStock

It's very unusual for a local school district to employ an independent financial consultant and give him wide jurisdiction over district funds. It also could be a problem. But it's most troubling that the consultant for the Elmont Union Free School District is Thomas Galante, the former Queens Library chief executive.

Galante has been accused by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer of spending $260,000 of library funds on prohibited expenses, from Apple TV devices and liquor to the construction of an outdoor deck for smoking breaks. Stringer said Galante "played a shell game," hiding some library funds in accounts not shown to the public.

Queens Library executives are picking up the pieces. Galante, whose lawyers declined to comment on the accusations, remains a consultant in Elmont. Between 2008 and 2010, he earned $287,100 from Elmont taxpayers, according to a 2011 audit by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, who found Galante had too much financial control. Stringer's audit found Galante billed Elmont for 20 hours a week, at a rate up to $187, while he also was paid up to $392,000 for his full-time job -- another 40 hours a week -- at Queens Library.

Elmont Superintendent Albert Harper has said little, only noting that audits by accounting firms haven't found anything negative. But that's unacceptable. Elmont should open its books and respond to questions. DiNapoli should conduct a new audit focused on Galante and district finances. Unless DiNapoli clears Elmont and Galante fully, the school district should cut ties with Galante altogether.

Don't wait, as Queens Library did, for media reports of wrongdoing. If there are no problems, there's nothing to hide. If Galante has too much power, or there are bigger concerns, the public must know.

And if he asks to build a smoking deck, say no.

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