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State orders Wyandanch library to seat write-in candidate

A write-in candidate appealed the results of the

A write-in candidate appealed the results of the Wyandanch Public Library trustees election.  Credit: Barry Sloan

The state has ordered the Wyandanch Public Library board of trustees to give a write-in candidate a seat on the board after she appealed the results of the April 2 election. 

Incumbent trustee Khristian Jones received 87 votes in the election and challenger Katrina Crawford received 113 from a write-in campaign. Election clerk Jennifer Martin said library attorney David Cohen disqualified 13 of Crawford’s votes for inconsistent spellings of her name leaving 50 for Katrina N. Crawford and 50 for Katrina Crawford. The unpaid five-member board later voted to toss out the 50 votes that didn’t include her middle initial, leaving her with 50 votes and declaring Jones the winner.

Crawford appealed to the state Education Department, whose laws oversee library elections, and in a Nov. 7 decision, then-state Education Department Interim Commissioner Beth Berlin declared Jones’ seat vacant and ordered the library board to appoint Crawford.

Before the election, the board rejected Crawford’s proof of residency, including copies of her driver’s license, Suffolk County voter registration form and Wyandanch library registration form, all which showed the same address in Wyandanch.

They determined that she didn’t meet the residency requirements for getting her name on the ballot.

“Generalized suspicion concerning an individual’s residency cannot serve as a basis for an adverse residency determination,” Berlin wrote. “Therefore, respondents’ rejection of petitioner’s nominating petition on the basis of nonresidency was improper.”

Berlin continued, “I find that petitioner received 100 votes in the April 2, 2019, election, which exceeded the 87 votes received by respondent Jones.”

Berlin rejected all the claims the library board made in its defense of keeping Crawford off the ballot, and later, the disqualification of half the votes for lack of a middle initial.

“We were very gratified to find the commissioner of education supported our position 100 percent regarding her eligibility to run and her clear-cut victory in the write-in campaign,” said Shawn Cullinane, Crawford’s Lindenhurst-based attorney.

He said neither he nor Crawford have heard from the board about plans to appoint her.

“Our expectation is that they’re going to do what they’re required to do by law,” he said.

Neither Cohen nor the attorney hired by the library  for this case, Garden City-based Candace J. Gomez, responded to requests for comment.

Board president Ghenya B. Grant would not answer questions about when the board would appoint Crawford. The Wyandanch library website states the board meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month, but Grant said the board was not meeting this week or next and wouldn’t say when  its next meeting would be.

“At this point, our attorneys are studying the decision and it’s a legal matter,” Grant said.

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