Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jimmy Van Bramer Queens Public Library Corruption Backlash

Last week, New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) was interviewed by NY1 concerning his new appointment as Majority Leader for the City Council.

In the interview, the new Majority Leader bragged that he worked for 11 years for the Queens Public Library as a community organizer, adding that he "really, really believes in good government." In the interview, Councilmember Van Bramer added that he cared about libraries, noting that he considered cultural services "dear" to his heart and to the heart of Queens.

However, muckraking journalist Juan Gonzalez published a scathing report in The New York Daily News on Monday, detailing how the library's president Thomas Galante was paid more than $390,000.00 and wasted $140,000.00 to renovate his offices at the Central Library. Meanwhile, the library president cut nearly 130 library jobs over the past five years.

When Councilmember Van Bramer learned about the scandal at the Queens Public Library, he figuratively hit the roof, telling The New York Daily News on Tuesday that, "It hurts the library in so many ways to have this happen, which just infuriates me," adding, "We need to ask the tough questions and get the answers about the nature of this spending."

The New York Daily New report noted that the City Council planned to hold a hearing into the Queens Public Library's financial scandal.

But by Wednesday, Councilmember Van Bramer had triggered controversy in his own right over his demand for controlling the City Council hearing. Some of his fellow councilmembers from Queens "questioned whether his ties to the Queens Library would compromise his ability to conduct a hearing on the library's finances," The New York Daily New reported. Mr. Van Bramer used to work for the Queens Public Library president.

“Who are you to question my integrity ?” the new Majority Leader reportedly shouted at Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) after she raised concerns about the Majority Leader's objectivity. “How dare you ?" Councilmember Van Bramer demanded before he accused Councilwoman Crowley of bieng out of line. "You’re out of place and out of order,” he said.

If Councilmember Van Bramer is allowed to conduct the City Council's investigation into the Queens Public Library's finance scandal, he will join the new Council speaker in a murky new world of conflicts of interest in the City Council.

In the time leading up to her selection as Council speaker, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito created controversy herself over the possibility that she had violated city ethics rules after Councilmember Mark-Viverito had accepted free campaign lobbying services from The Advance Group.

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