NEW YORK—The CEO and president of the Queens Public Library, Thomas Galante sat before a room of council members Wednesday in City Hall, patiently answering their questions on his compensation package.
Recent articles in the New York Daily News brought to light that his salary is $446,000 a year, that he received a complimentary car through the library, and that he recently paid $140,000 to renovate his office (he said without public funds).
This is all while the library has had trouble keeping books on shelves, staying open seven days a week, paying union employees (it recently contracted nonunion janitorial services), and has instituted a hiring freeze.
When asked if he thought his salary was fair, Galante replied, “You need to make sure for any business, any educational institution, any government you got good leadership, strong management because you get what you pay for.”
A board of 19 people—half appointed by the mayor half by the borough president—are in charge of deciding his salary. He said when he negotiated his contract in 2005 he told them he wanted a competitive salary so he would not “bounce to somewhere else.”
He said his salary is based on what other nonprofits of a similar size in New York City make, which turns out to be from a pool of 30 educational and cultural institutions.
“The last data available is 2011 tax returns because it takes time for people to file the tax returns and then get posted, but in 2011 the average salary was $383,945,” Galante said. “My number was $373, 201 and if you mark that to 2013 by using what comp studies say, I’m paid about $8,000 below that number. That’s just peanuts, right?”
It may be peanuts for him, but for a nonprofit that by one calculation is funded $98.7 percent by the city, that may be considered as a lot of taxpayer dollars.
One council member called for a labor representative to sit on the board while Public Advocate Letitia James suggested heads of the public libraries submit conflict of interest reports like council members do.
She also noted that while Galante is the “poster child” of this issue, he is by no means alone.
According to findthedata.org Linda Johnson, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library made $169,846 in 2011 and according to charity.org, New York Public Library president and CEO Anthony W. Marx made $380,164. According to the same organization, his predecessor Paul LeClerc made $735,293 a year.
The three library systems combined are given $300 million a year from the city budget.
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.