Mar 14th - 3:03 pm
Outspoken businessman and Buffalo Public School Board member Carl Paladino is once again being criticized for sharing racially-charged material. Paladino sent out a series of internet memes to his email contacts on Monday about a variety of different topics.
Among them was one that said, “March is national Stop Blaming White People Month! Accept responsibility for your own bad choices. Hug a white person!”
Just before Christmas, Paladino made comments to alternative Buffalo weekly Artvoice about his wishlist for 2017. In it he said he would like then-First Lady Michelle Obama to return to Zimbabwe and live in a cave with a gorilla.
Protesters throughout the community have since called for him to be removed from the school board for his comments. The state education commissioner is still considering several formal petitions for removal.
Paladino also made headlines when he was running for governor of New York in 2010 for allegedly forwarding objectionable emails, including one showing an African tribal dance labeled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal.”
Paladino did not directly comment on the meme but did address a scathing op-ed piece written by Daily Public columnist Alan Bedenko, one of his more vocal critics. Bedenko called him a white nationalist on Tuesday.
“It’s pure unadulterated humor,” Paladino said. “Bedenko should get a life. Nobody reads his s—.”
Feb 7th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
The president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation does not believe the school district should be responsible for board member Carl Paladino’s legal fees.
Paladino is currently being defended by former state AG Dennis Vacco as four separate organizations are seeking to have him removed from office as a result of the inflammatory remarks he made last December to a Buffalo weekly newspaper about now former President Obama and his wife.
The board of education, the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization, the District Parent Coordinating Council and the BTF have all filed petitions with the state Education Department asking Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to oust Paladino from the seat to which he was first elected in 2013, and re-elected in 2016.
“He has said himself that he was not acting as a board member, he was acting as a personal citizen with his First Amendment rights,” BTF President Phil Rumore said of Paladino.
Rumore said if Paladino is defending himself against actions taken as a private citizen, he should not be able to use district money to do so.
He also believes Paladino forfeited his right to have his legal bills covered by the taxpayers by publicly disclosing confidential information discussed in an executive session.
The rest of the board of education – sans Paladino himself – retained a private attorney to represent them in this matter, which will be paid for by the district.
Paladino said he cannot comment on anything involving the ongoing litigation.
Jan 19th - 5:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
A handful of organizations had promised to submit a formal petition to the state education commissioner asking her to remove Carl Paladino from his seat on the Buffalo Board of Education due to his pejorative comments about the outgoing president and his wife.
The New York State teachers union became the first to initiate that process.
Paladino confirmed last night that he had been served a petition – the first step in the application for removal. According to NYSED, he now has 20 days to provide a “verified answer.”
Following Paladino’s response, the complainant has another 10 days to reply before the commissioner makes a decision about whether there is enough evidence to move forward with a formal hearing on his potential removal as a Buffalo School Board member.
The five teachers who filed the petition with the support of NYSUT, claim Paladino’s actions and statements “negatively affect the ability of teachers to do their job in teaching students tolerance, kindness and self-respect” and also have interfered with students’ educations.
To recap: The Buffalo alternative newspaper Artvoice published derogatory comments by Paladino on Dec. 23.
In that interview, Paladino said, among other things, that he’d like President Obama to die of mad cow disease and First Lady Michelle Obama “to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
A number of other groups, including the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization, and the District Parent Coordinating Council, and the board of education have said they plan to appeal to NYSED too. The BOE passed a resolution last night – with Paladino present – for President Barbara Seals Nevergold to sign its petition.
Jan 17th - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
After Artvoice published Carl Paladino’s disparaging and racially-charged remarks about the Obamas last month, opponents of the brash Buffalo businessman said they were fed up with his repeated controversies and vowed to continue to speaking out until he was removed from the Buffalo Board of Education.
So far, they’ve kept their promise.
Paladino’s critics have voiced their concerns at Common Council meetings and at school board meetings. They’ve filed appeals seeking his removal from elected office to the state education commissioner, and have protested often in front of City Hall and even in front of Paladino’s own home.
The trick is keeping those demonstrations in the news now that more than three weeks have passed without any significant developments since Paladino’s initial comments were published. Yesterday, the Dr. Martin Luther King Day holiday served as a handy news hook.
Democratic Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant said Paladino’s remarks served as a reminder there’s still work left to do on the civil rights front, adding: “It sends a message that we have a got long way to go, we’re not there yet.”
“For Mr. Paladino, I’m going to call his name, to use such hateful language against anyone is a detriment to our community and as an elected official he should know better,” Grant said.
Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and state Sen. Tim Kennedy, both Democrats, were also among the dozens who rallied in the city’s MLK Park.
Paladino has said he will not heed calls to step down from the school board, and while the state education commissioner does have the authority to remove him, to do so would be a precedent-setting move and she has not yet issued a decision.
Since he’s no stranger to making waves, it should come as no surprise that Paladino appears unbothered by the ongoing protests. Yesterday, he maintained his critics are entitled to their First Amendment right, but noted – as he has all along – that he is, too.
(He has apologized for his comments about the Obamas, but insisted that they have noting to do with race, and should not require his resignation or removal from a duly elected public post).
Meanwhile, Paladino said he is preparing for a trip to Washington, D.C. to see his candidate be sworn in as president.
The Trump Transition Team condemned the remarks of the president-elect’s New York campaign’s honorary co-chair, but Paladino has maintained he is still in Trump’s good graces and will attend Friday’s festivities, as planned.
Jan 3rd - 6:30 am
From the Morning Memo:
A new website, boycottpaladino.com, is now live and calling for the public to avoid any businesses connected to controversial Buffalo developer Carl Paladino.
The website features a nearly 3.5 minute video, with news clippings about many of the former gubernatorial candidate and current Buffalo Public School Board member’s controversial and racially-charged comments and actions over the years.
With the help of watchdog websites like Littlesis and the Public Accountability Initiative, this new site also lists more than 100 buildings and businesses with which Paladino or his company, Ellicott Development, is associated.
“I think most people think he owns some buildings, has the ear of other hard right politicians, sits on the school board, and has some of Buffalo’s power players in his pocket,” said the website’s creator, who agreed to speak about it under the condition that his or her identity be kept a secret
“I don’t think most people realize just how entrenched he is in our community. The team at Little Sis and PAI have done great worko But the average person is getting their news in tiny sound bites on Facebook, so non-profits seem to have a hard time connecting to anyone who is not already an active community member seeking out information.”
The Boycott Paladino website was registered privately and is not owned or operated by any organization.
“Since this came together over the holiday break I have not yet had a chance to discuss this project with my employer,” the creator said. “Additionally, my web developer and I are both pretty well recognized community members who work outside of politics and the non-profit sector. We felt that making the story about us was a bad move given how much of the information came from outside sources who deserve all the credit.”
The website creator said no New Yorker who has paid even a passing amount of attention to politics in recent years should be surprised by derogatory comments Paladino made about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, but most people don’t realize how much power he actually has.
This project seeks to streamline that information.
“It’s a shareable and easy way to make the point,” the creator said. “That point can be that we as a community have the ability to stand tall and demand better, that we won’t tolerate racism. But it can also be that Carl Paladino is bad for our community and we as a community need to let him and his ilk know they aren’t welcome in New Buffalo.”
Paladino’s son William, the CEO of Ellicott Development, has criticized his father’s comments and tried to distance the chairman from day-to-day operations of the company.
But the Boycott Paladino site’s creators believe and point out that the two still work closely together, and don’t think William Paladino – or Ellicott – should be let off the hook.
“We hope to make it as easy as possible for people to boycott his businesses and any business directly or indirectly putting money in his pocket,” the creator said. “Sadly, our impact will be limited due to the sheer number of government contracts he holds – that’s our next battle.”
Boycottpaladino.com also noted the developer has made significant contributions to elected officials including Republican Rep. Chris Collins, a close Trump ally and prominent surrogate for the incoming administration; Democratic Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, (who has actually stopped accepting contributions), and Democratic Assemblyman Mickey Kearns.
Paladino himself was not impressed by the website when we reached out to him for comment, dismissing its creators as “a few sick activists making more noise than they are entitled to because the press eats it up.”
Dec 30th - 4:27 pm
The deadline for Carl Paladino to submit his resignation from the Buffalo Public School Board has come and gone. Around Thursday 3:30 p.m. the board passed a resolution demanding Paladino’s resignation within 24 hours, in response to derogatory and racially charged comments he made about the Obamas.
The brash Buffalo businessman made clear, he had no intention to give in to the ultimatum. According to the resolution, if he failed to resign, the board would seek outside counsel in order to submit an application to the state education commissioner to remove him from office.
It has now started that process. Friday at 4:12 p.m. (roughly 45 minutes after the deadline) the district sent notice of special meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, to select its attorney.
Dec 29th - 5:02 pm
The ball is in Carl Paladino’s court for at least a day. Thursday afternoon, the Buffalo Public School Board passed a resolution formally calling for Paladino to resign from his post within 24 hours.
Six members voted in favor of the resolution during a special board meeting to discuss derogatory and racially charged comments the businessman recently made to the alternative Buffalo newspaper, Artvoice, regarding President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Two members, Paladino allies Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn, voted against it.
Nearly every member had prepared a written statement to read before the vote. Pierce and Quinn both made clear they disapproved of the comments, which included wishing the president would die of mad cow disease and the first lady 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.”
The two members said they prefer Paladino have a chance to apologize to the parents and students in the predominantly black district, than be forced out. Other members said the comments were part of a pattern and racism and he could no longer effectively make policy decisions.
Paladino was not present at the meeting but quickly responded to the board’s decision. He reiterated he has no intention of stepping down and believes any attempt to remove him from office will go nowhere.
“It is certainly not an illustration of courage or leadership on the part of the council members, legislators, mayor or county executive, who have joined in the chorus of racist and incompetent Board of Ed members seeking my removal, so as to push back on me to not disclose their culpability in rigging the recent teacher’s contract, or their complicity in trying to unfairly settling the board’s $450 million lawsuit against (developer) Lou Ciminelli for fleecing the citizens and children of Buffalo. It’s going to be a very combative year,” he said in a statement.
Paladino has not explained yet how he believes the recently passed agreement with the Buffalo Teachers Federation was rigged but said there’s more to come. If he does refuse to step down, the resolution calls for the board to seek outside counsel in order to submit an application to the state education commissioner to remove him.
Two other groups, the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization and the District Parent Coordinating Council, have also said they plan to appeal to NYSED.
“We will continue to closely monitor the actions by the Buffalo School Board, the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization and others on this matter. Once we receive an application for removal, we will review it as quickly as possible. We continue to review all of our options,” NYSED spokesperson Emily DeSantis said.
Dec 29th - 2:26 pm
3:36 p.m. That concludes our blog. Feel free to send me any questions on Twitter @RyanTWCNews. Watch this evening for extended coverage.
3:33 p.m. Vote just concluded. Six members vote in favor of the resolution. Two vote against. Paladino is absent.
3:31 p.m. Nevergold said she has heard from people all over the country who are “incredulous” that a sitting board member would express the sentiments that Paladino did. She said they would like her to tell him, “You’re fired.”
Nevergold uses Donald Trump’s catch phrase but said those are not her words. Paladino, of course, was the honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign.
3:29 p.m. “Words matter, Mr. Paladino. This community has been rocked,” Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said.
She explains why she believes Carl Paladino should resign from the board.
3:26 p.m. Hope Jay, who sponsored the resolution, offers board members Pierce and Quinn the opportunity to sign on to the resolution. Members of the audience scream out, “Remember, we vote! It’s okay to admit you’re wrong.”
3:24 p.m. Board member Jennifer Mecozzi is the first board member to speak without a prepared statement. She acknowledged it.
It’s noticeable, but the off-the-cuff style is being well-received by the crowd.
“This man is old enough to know better. We expect our children to be old enough to know better,” she said.
3:20 p.m. Now Belton-Cottman makes accusation that Paladino used his influence to buy a building for less than $1 million dollars that should’ve been worth $1.9 million. She said if he didn’t abuse his power, that money should’ve been profit for the school district.
President Nevergold attempts to interrupt Belton-Cottman but she continues, arguing she felt it needed to be said because she represents the student in the district.
3:18 p.m. Belton-Cottman is now specifically addressing Patti Pierce because she said Patti Pierce “has a good heart.” She shows Pierce and the crowd a stack of documents she said is proof of just a little bit of the negative actions Paladino has taken.
3:17 p.m. Board member Belton-Cottman said the perception Paladino can be an objective policy-maker is “irreparably damaged.”
3:15 p.m. Belton-Cottman preemptively taking on any “freedom of speech” article Paladino might make. She said the constitution does not allow someone to lie and slander.
She is now reading an email Paladino wrote yesterday in which he allegedly said “The nutcases are running the asylum and the news has nothing to say.”
In email, Paladino allegedly calls Belton-Cottman racist.
3:14 p.m. Now board member Sharon Belton-Cottman is up. She has long been Paladino’s most vocal critic on the school board.
She, like the other board members is reading a prepared statement. I expect it to be biting.
3:11 p.m. Harris-Ting continues to read written statement. She said there is widespread agreement that Paladino engages in bullying behavior toward students and adults of color.
She said there is a feeling he is allowed to bully with impunity. Harris-Tigg said with Paladino on the board, it undermines teaching and student achievement.
3:07 p.m Board member Theresa Harris-Tigg asks who are Paladino’s friends who he said his comments to Artvoice were actually intended.
“How close are his friends to our children,” she asks.
Some members of the crowd say his friends are Quinn and Pierce. With Paladino not here, they are receiving a lot of the crowd’s ire.
3:05 p.m. Harris-Tigg said she will not say Paladino’s name again. She said she will not continue to empower him.
From now on, she said she will refer to him as “Orange Cheetos.” Harris-Tigg said as recently as yesterday the African-American women on the board received an unsavory email from Paladino.
3:04 p.m. Board member Theresa Harris-Tigg said, “Today is a time for reckoning.”
3:02 p.m. Paulette Woods said, “This level of hatred for African-Americans can not and should not set policy.”
2:59 p.m. Now board member Paulette Woods is speaking. She is not as willing as the first to speakers to allow Paladino to apologize.
She said if any student had said things Paladino has said they would be suspended.
2:56 p.m. Quinn tells story about how an African-American woman helped bring him up as a child. I heard scoffs throughout the council chambers.
Quinn reinforces Pierce’s call for Paladino to address what he said to every child in Buffalo. He said he’s not making excuses for Paladino though.
2:53 p.m Paladino’s friend and ally, board member Larry Quinn calls Paladino’s comments in Artvoice “heartless” and “racist.” He said he’s having a hard time with the comments because he knows Paladino has a big heart.
2:51 p.m. Board member Patti Pierce said to ask Paladino to resign within 24 hours is “giving him a pass and he does not deserve a pass.” She is calling on Paladino to step up and apologize.
Nevergold said she did not contact Pierce about the resolution. She said the six board members who signed the resolution contacted her and they were “forceful” about what needed to happen.
At the same time, Nevergold tells Pierce she believes she is sincere about wanting to help children.
2:46 p.m. Pierce said this is an opportunity for the school district to give Paladino an opportunity for forgiveness. The crowd does not respond well to it.
On multiple occasions, President Nevergold requests they give her respect. Pierce said Buffalo should take a page from Charleston, South Carolina where relatives of those slain in a church forgave the shooter.
One person here screams at Pierce, “I don’t appreciate you using the people of South Carolina for your own gain.”
2:43 p.m. Board member Patty Pierce, a Paladino ally in the past, is now reading a prepared statement. She said just because her name isn’t on the resolution doesn’t mean she approves of what Paladino said to Artvoice.
Pierce said she hadn’t seen the resolution before today. She also said she hasn’t spoken a word to Paladino since the story broke.
2:40 p.m There is a standing ovation from the crowd as Hope Jay demands Paladino resign from the board. If you want to read the whole resolution, it’s here.
2:36 p.m. The board typically requires 48 hours before it can act on a resolution but they just voted to waive the rules. Board member Hope Jay is introducing her resolution calling for Paladino to resign within the next 24 hours. She is reading his answers to Artvoice outlaid to audible groans.
2:32 p.m. The meeting has just been called to order. The board accepted the Buffalo Common Council’s invitation to hold it in council chambers, a larger venue. The entire room is full. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold begins by explaining that public comment will not be allowed.
2:25 p.m. The Buffalo Public School Board is meeting today to discuss the recent conduct of board member Carl Paladino. Alternative Buffalo newspaper Artvoice recently published derogatory and racially charged comments made by Paladino for an annual survey, about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Six of the boards nine members have signed on to a resolution calling for Paladino’s immediate resignation. They plan to introduce the resolution at today’s special meeting and discuss potential legal action if he refuses to step down.
Paladino said he does not plan to attend the meeting. We will continue to provide live updates here on New York State of Politics.
Dec 28th - 5:53 pm
Six of the nine members on the Buffalo Public School Board of Education are officially calling for Carl Paladino’s resignation. A resolution, which will be submitted by board member Hope Jay at Thursday’s special meeting, calls for Paladino to resign within 24 hours.
It goes on to say that should he not do so, the board will retain outside legal counsel to file a 306 petition with New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to pursue his removal. The resolution comes in response to derogatory statements Paladino made about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama that were published last week in Buffalo’s Artvoice newspaper.
“These unambiguously racist, morally repugnant, flagrantly disrespectful, inflammatory and inexcusable comments by Mr. Paladino have garnered both local, national and international attention that reflects negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education, the City of Buffalo and its leadership and its citizens, the State of New York, and every decent human being in America and abroad who has been shocked and offended by his words,” Jay wrote.
There is some question about whether the board could remove Paladino on its own. Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold, who signed the resolution, said she does not believe the district’s bylaws allow it, and any action would have to come through the state Education Department.
“We are in the process of reviewing all of our options in this unusual situation and will closely watch the actions taken by the Buffalo Board of Education at tomorrow’s meeting,” State Ed spokesperson Emily DeSantis said.
Members of the Buffalo Parent-Teacher Organization (BPTO) and a member of the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC) are also planning to file separate 306 petitions.
Dec 28th - 12:34 pm
New York’s statewide teachers union is joining the growing chorus of people calling for Buffalo Public School Board member Carl Paladino’s removal from office. The union said its members will reinforce a Thursday morning protest organized against Paladino.
“We stand with parents and concerned citizens across New York State in calling upon the state education commissioner to immediately remove Carl Paladino from the Buffalo school board,” NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said.
Thursday afternoon, the school board is holding a special meeting to discuss “board member conduct.” Last week, alternative Buffalo newspaper Artvoice published the controversial answers Paladino gave to an annual survey.
The brash businessman and one of Donald Trump’s leading supporters in New York, among other things, wished President Obama dead and that First Lady Michelle Obama would “return to being a man and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe.” He has since said the answers were a joke which he sent by mistake.
Magee said this kind of rhetoric is not new for Paladino, who ran for governor in 2010.
“His racist rants are despicable. He is unfit to hold a position of responsibility affecting students and their well-being. As educators, we are dedicated to ensuring our students learn in classrooms and on campuses where the values of respect and civility are paramount,” she said. “We condemn this disgusting, racist behavior and call for Carl Paladino’s removal.”
Nearly 16,00 people have signed a petition sharing the same sentiment as Magee. Public officials including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, have also called for his removal.
State Education commissioner MaryEllen Elia does have the power to remove an elected board member. Elia has not yet commented on the situation.