Apr 6th - 11:53 am
Members of the Buffalo Public School Board called Carl Paladino’s claims of a coordinated attack against his freedom of speech, baseless. Last week, Paladino’s attorney notified the state education commissioner of their plans to file a federal lawsuit and asked her to stop moving forward with three appeals to remove him from the board until it had played out in court.
Attorney Dennis Vacco said an invoice from the board member’s lawyer proved they recruited parents and teachers to petition Paladino be removed based on remarks he made about the Obamas late last year. This came after, Vacco alleged, the board’s lawyer advised members that it was not legal to take action based on those comments.
Meanwhile, the BOE based its appeal for Paladino’s removal on the grounds that he may have violated the rules of executive session.
“We have acted properly at all times in pursuing the allegations in the petition to the Commissioner, and believe that Mr. Paladino is leveling his latest round of baseless allegations in an attempt to distract from his misconduct, and the fact that he has submitted no evidence to the Commissioner that justifies his unlawful disclosure of confidential information,” Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said.
Nevergold said members looks forward to the commissioner rendering a decision. A spokesperson for State Ed says the commissioner can not make a ruling on the requests for stays from Paladino’s camp because the lawsuit has not been filed yet.
Apr 5th - 7:47 am
From the Morning Memo:
These days, former Republican state Attorney General Dennis Vacco is a partner at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP in Buffalo, and among his clients is Buffalo Board of Education member Carl Paladino, who is currently facing four separate appeals to the state education commissioner for his removal from office.
Vacco and Paladino are going on the offensive, although they didn’t expect their decision to draw so much attention this soon.
The attorney found himself answering questions this week about his plan to file a federal lawsuit alleging a conspiracy against Paladino’s First Amendment rights – even though he didn’t initially make that information public.
In anticipation of the suit, Vacco asked the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, for a stay of three of the appeals currently pending against his client. The fourth petitioner, the District Parent Coordinating Council, actually requested to join the action yesterday, and submitted Vacco’s stay as evidence.
It was the DPCC that first spoke to the media. Vacco said he’s not sure how the council’s request will affect Elia’s decision.
“Whether she grants it or not remains to be seen, but that’s not going to deter us from moving forward with our federal litigation,” he said.
Vacco believes an invoice he obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request clearly shows proof that the board coordinated with both the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization and New York State United Teachers in their effort to oust Paladino.
In short, he claims that the BOE attorney knew they couldn’t ask for Paladino’s removal based on derogatory comments he made about the Obamas late last year, but nevertheless recruited and helped the two other petitioners do it anyway.
“We’re saying that these other lawsuits, once the majority members lawyer figured out that the board couldn’t attack him on speech, because it’s constitutionally protected, they wanted to gin up these other groups to come after him, to inflame the record, if you will,” Vacco said.
In the lawsuit, Vacco and Paladino plan to seek an annulment of the appeals as well as monetary damages. As for the timeline, Vacco said they’re getting their papers in order. He declined to speculate when the lawsuit itself will actually materialize.
A spokesperson for Elia said the commissioner can’t predict the actions of a judge for a lawsuit that hasn’t been filed yet, so the department was unable to respond to the request for a stay at this time.
Apr 4th - 4:22 pm
Outspoken Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino plans to sue the Buffalo Board of Education and two other groups that have formally asked for his removal from the board. Paladino’s attorney, former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco, alleges an illegal conspiracy to infringe on his client’s right to freedom of speech.
In paperwork filed with the State Education Department last week, Vacco asked that new evidence be accepted in appeals for Paladino’s removal filed by the Buffalo BOE, the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization (BPTO), and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). He said the evidence, a January invoice from BOE attorney Frank Miller, proved there was “a coordinated assault on Mr. Paladino’s constitutional rights.”
He said the invoice showed, among other things, that the board recruited teachers and parents to make speech claims against Paladino which the board could not legally make, that Miller discussed strategy with attorneys for BPTO and NYSUT, created a model complaint and even reviewed the organizations’ complaints.
Vacco said he submitted the invoice as new evidence because they didn’t have it until after he was legally required to respond to the appeals. In fact he said, Paladino was only provided an incomplete copy of the bill in mid-May and the firm didn’t get the entire document until the end of the month, after submitting a Freedom of Information Law request.
The appeals for Paladino’s removal stem back to racially-charged comments he made about the former President and First Lady, published just before Christmas. He has since apologized for making the comments but insisted his First Amendment rights protected the speech, even as a board of education member.
In the document submitted to State Ed, Paladino’s attorney also notified Commissioner MaryEllen Elia of their plans to file a federal lawsuit. He asked Elia to not take any further action regarding the appeals until it plays out in court.
A fourth organization calling for the board member’s ouster, the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC), submitted its response to Vacco’s request today. The DPCC agreed with Vacco and made a request that its own appeal be stayed, as well.
The council said it didn’t want the matter to be “tainted and subject to years of litigation.”
Its appeal also goes a step further than the others, calling not just for Paladino to be removed but for the entire board to be replaced by a receiver. Members said the new allegations further support their claims of dysfunction.
“I think what it’s going to do is bring attention to the fact that the psychological environment that our city and our school district is operating (in), is not promoting education,” Franklin Redd Jr. said.
Miller said he is currently working on his own response to the State Education Department and wouldn’t provide comment to media outlets until after that was complete. A spokesperson for State Ed said it cannot speculate on what a judge will do with a lawsuit that hasn’t been filed yet.
We’re waiting on responses from representatives for Paladino, BPTO and NYSUT as well.
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.