Here’s the latest in the saga of Carl Paladino, a wealthy businessman and ally of President-elect Donald Trump who was asked to resign from the Buffalo Board of Education, on which he has sat since 2013, because of insulting and racist remarks he made about President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
The board held a special session on Dec. 27 and voted 6-2 to demand that Paladino resign within 24 hours for comments he made in response to a survey by the alternative newspaper Artvoice. Asked for his biggest wish in 2017, he said it was that the president “catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations” with a cow, then dies and is buried in a cow pasture. He said that he hopes Michelle Obama would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino has not resigned, and the school board met on Wednesday to select a special counsel to make a case against Paladino’s continued tenure on the board that would be presented to New York’s education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia. The commissioner has the power to start termination proceedings against a local board member – either by acting on a request from the local board or independently.
Elia could have started the process of trying to kick him off the panel before waiting for the school board to ask, and thousands of people have signed petitions requesting that she do so immediately. But Emily DeSantis, assistant commissioner for public affairs for the New York State Department of Education, said the local community should start the process. DeSantis wrote in an email:
“The local community voted to elect Mr. Paladino as a school board member. Any action to initiate his removal should come from the community that elected him.
“There are generally two options for removal of school board members. Under Education Law 306, an aggrieved party or the Commissioner can initiate a removal proceeding. Whoever brings the case must show evidence of willful misconduct or neglect of duty. Specifically, it must be established that the board member has engaged in a willful violation or neglect of duty under the Education Law or has willfully disobeyed a decision, order, rule or regulation of the Board of Regents or Commissioner of Education. To be considered willful, such actions must have been intentional and with a wrongful purpose.
“In addition, the local school board can remove one of its members for ‘official misconduct,’ which is conduct that ‘clearly relates to a board member’s official duties, either because of the allegedly unauthorized exercise of the member’s powers or the intentional failure to exercise those powers to the detriment of the school district’ (see Appeals of Gill and Burnett, 42 Ed Dept Rep 89, Decision No. 14,785).”
Elia herself said in part during a WTC News interview on Tuesday:
“I would be the one that would make determinations on what is provided to us as the basis for why they feel aggrieved and why they believe that Mr. Paladino should be removed. It has to come with an argument very related to the specifics of the law.”
Barbara Seals Nevergold, president and member-at-large of the Buffalo Board of Education, said in an email that the board selected attorney Frank Miller of Syracuse “to represent it in this matter.” The board looked outside of Buffalo to find somebody without ties to any involved party.
Seven members of the board voted to hire Miller, including one who had earlier voted against demanding Paladino’s resignation. The second Paladino ally did not attend the meeting. Nor did Paladino.
Paladino’s remarks were blasted by numerous elected officials and others, and Trump transition team spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said, “Carl’s comments are absolutely reprehensible, and they serve no place in our public discourse.”
The transition team did not, however, say whether or not it was disassociating itself from Paladino.
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