In a move that a Suffolk County library official said is “extraordinarily rare,” the Wyandanch Public Library board on Friday is expected to vote on the removal of one of its trustees.
The five-member volunteer board in November passed a resolution to investigate Judith Graham-Guerrier, 72, who has been a trustee for seven years. That investigation, conducted by an attorney hired by the board, Candace Gomez of Garden City, concluded this month and recommended six charges for which Graham-Guerrier could be removed: advocacy against the library budget; breach of executive session confidentiality; improper interference with library staff members; a pattern of disruption at board meetings; and two charges of disrupting meetings on Oct. 23 and Dec. 23, during which Suffolk County police were called by board president Ghenya Grant.
A seventh charge that Graham-Guerrier attempted to physically attack Grant in 2018 was not recommended by Gomez as part of the charges used for removal but was included in a letter Graham-Guerrier received from Grant about the vote.
Graham-Guerrier, who opted to not take part in the investigation, denies all of the charges and said the investigation was done in an effort to silence her. She regularly speaks up at meetings seeking information before votes, she said, and attempts to have more transparency, especially on the library’s employment of more than a half dozen relatives of board members.
“This is a ploy they’re using because they know I question quite a few things,” she said.
Grant did not respond to requests for comment on the investigation. Gomez declined to comment, citing confidentiality.
Graham-Guerrier said should the board vote to remove her, she will appeal to the state Department of Education, which oversees the library, and also ask for a stay so she cannot be removed before her term expires in April.
Kevin Verbesey, who has been director of the board of trustees for the Suffolk Cooperative Library System for 14 years, said library board investigations happen occasionally but are usually based on specific criminal actions.
“With a publicly elected trustee, it’s extraordinarily rare that a board would take a step like this which is typically left up to the community at the elections to determine who should serve on the board,” he said.
Verbesey said the investigation is “something that concerns us and something we watch very closely,” particularly because Graham-Guerrier “has been a frequent and vocal critic of the board.”
“She’s long-alleged lack of transparency, misuse of public funds, nepotism and other unethical behavior,” he said. “You’re just hopeful that the board is undertaking a costly investigation like this, which at the end of the day uses taxpayer money, not to silence criticism, but because someone has truly violated their oath of office.”
Verbesey said the move is even more concerning coming on the heels of the state’s decision in November that the library board was wrong to deny trustee candidate Katrina Crawford a spot on last April’s ballot and to deny her win as a write-in candidate. The board swore Crawford in on Jan. 4 but, citing state law on appointments only lasting until the next election, appointed her for a term that ends in April, rather than the five-year term she won last year. Crawford has appealed to the state and asked for a stay on the board removing her from her seat in April.
The board meeting is at 6 p.m. at the library, 14 S. 20th St.