Wyandanch Public Library head custodian Kwaisi McCorvey, seen here in Suffolk County...

Wyandanch Public Library head custodian Kwaisi McCorvey, seen here in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on Aug. 3. Credit: James Carbone

The Wyandanch Public Library board has suspended without pay a janitor who pleaded guilty to raping a minor, 10 months after he was arrested. The library also hired a new director only to say a half-hour later it would rescind the resolution after the candidate, surprised by the move, declined to accept the position. 

The board voted unanimously, 4-0, at a special meeting Thursday to suspend an employee without pay effective Friday. Library attorney Shawn Cullinane declined to name the employee, but two sources with knowledge of the action confirmed to Newsday the employee is head janitor Kwaisi McCorvey.

The board suspended McCorvey, 52, of Farmingdale, with pay a week after his February arrest for allegedly raping a 16-year-old in North Amityville. In September, he pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and child endangerment in Suffolk County Court, admitting he sexually assaulted the girl in 2016. He remained on the payroll, earning a base annual salary of $65,494.

Newsday isn't publishing the young woman's name because she is a sexual assault victim.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Wyandanch Public Library janitor Kwaisi McCorvey has been suspended without pay, 10 months after his arrest on rape charges.
  • Library consultant Lambert Shell was hired as library director, but the hiring resolution will be rescinded.
  • The state has threatened the library with losing its public funding if it doesn't meet minimum standards.

McCorvey couldn't be reached for comment Friday. 

Under state Civil Service law, an employee may only be suspended without pay for 30 days. Cullinane told Newsday that McCorvey will be told the library’s decision and, under the law, he can either resign, waive a hearing — at which point the library can then fire him — or can contest the charges and a hearing will be held.

Cullinane said the matter is being handled by Manhattan lawyer Noemi Baez, who was hired in October for $250 an hour.

The victim in the rape case filed a notice of claim in July seeking $30 million in damages while naming McCorvey and former and current library trustees as defendants. 

The litigation alleges McCorvey sexually abused the young woman when she was a minor during encounters that happened at the library between 2016 and 2018. McCorvey hasn't been criminally charged in connection with those allegations.

A confidential memo obtained by Newsday revealed the young woman reported to the library’s director in September 2021 that she had sexual encounters with McCorvey in the library when she was 16, but McCorvey remained on the job.

At the special meeting, the board also voted to appoint Lambert Shell as provisional library director, effective Friday, at an annual salary of $135,000.

But within a half-hour, Cullinane informed Newsday that after talking to Shell, the board would be rescinding the appointment resolution at its next meeting.

“After further discussing it with Dr. Shell, apparently there was a disagreement between the board and Dr. Shell about the appointment,” Cullinane said.

Shell, 53, who is the full-time director of the Roosevelt Public Library, where he said he earns $135,000 a year, has been doing consulting work for Wyandanch for several years. Shell said he earns $75 an hour from Wyandanch. Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request show the library has paid Shell more than $32,000 so far this year.

Cullinane said Shell “hasn’t accepted the position” but also “hasn’t said he doesn’t want the position.” Cullinane declined to provide any further details.

Shell said the vote to appoint him was “premature” and caught him off-guard.

“There’s been discussion about it, but no acceptance by me and no contract talks,” he told Newsday on Friday. “I don’t understand why they would make such a hasty decision without talking to me first.”

Cullinane attributed the vote to the board's growing pains.

“This board is trying very hard to undo years of mismanagement at the library and these are just some of the trips and falls that they are experiencing,” Cullinane said. 

The library has a high director turnover rate, which Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, has said is unusual for a library where directors typically stay for a decade or longer.

Jessica Oelcher, 41, who became the library’s first permanent director in more than a year and a half when she was hired at an annual salary of $110,000 in May, quit in July on the same day the board’s president, Jordan Thomas, also resigned.

In October, the New York State Education Department warned the library that its public funding could be pulled because of its failure to meet the state's minimum standards. One of those unmet standards was having a full-time director. 

The board also voted to hire a new treasurer, Lelon Means, 41, of Deer Park, at a salary of $1,200 a month. The library's previous treasurer, Donna Gellineau-Matone, resigned last month, stating that "the board's oversight of the financial spending ... has become more and more concerning." 

The board also voted to pay Newsday $7,257 in attorney fees that a state supreme court judge ordered. Newsday had filed a lawsuit after the library failed to respond substantively to public records requests for more than two years under the Freedom of Information Law.

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