Carl Paladino

In Testimony, Paladino Defiant In Removal Case

For nearly six hours on Tuesday, Carl Paladino told his life story, his approach toward public office and his time on the Buffalo School Board. He now faces removal from the board for allegedly disclosing confidential information.

“I think we proved our case overwhelmingly that Carl Paladino violated his oath of office,” said Frank Miller, the attorney hired by the Buffalo School Board for the removal hearing. “The best proof of that was his own testimony.”

In that testimony, Paladino defended his writings in a newsweekly discussing the board’s 2016 contract talks with the teacher’s union in Buffalo. Board members argue Paladino revealed confidential information from an executive session. Paladino’s team disagrees.

“Our affirmative defense is include among other things that the executive sessions were entered into illegally,” said Dennis Vacco, Paladino’s attorney. “So if they are not entered into lawfully, they don’t get whatever protection comes with confidentiality.”

Paladino under questioning from his attorney also said he regretted writing a racist essay mocking Barack and Michelle Obama.

“I was thinking about Obama and his wife,” Paladino said. “My thinking got carried away… I sincerely regret my words.”

Paladino’s legal team argues the board is actually trying to remove him for the Obama commentary, not the disclosures.

“They want to remove him over that,” Vacco said. “He is facing removal over that. That is the whole part of our pre-text case. You’ve heard me say over several times during the course of the case that the unlawful disclosures was an extreme after thought.”

Throughout the day, Paladino’s manichean view of the world was on display, presenting himself as a rescuer of a troubled public system, standing up to sinister “schemers” like the teachers union president and incompetent naifs.

The hearing began last week, but Tuesday was the only day to draw about more than two dozen protesters outside of the state Education buildnig in Albany. Paladino himself was tight lipped after the hours of questioning.

“You’ll have to ask my boss if he’ll let me speak,” he told reporters, nudging Vacco.

Regardless of how State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia rules, School Board President Barbara Nevergold questioned whether Paladino can remain an effective member.

“In his testimony, he doesn’t feel he’s bound by policies related to executive session and I suspect other policies related to controlling the board’s behavior and controlling the board’s actions,” Nevergold said.

Closing arguments in the hearing are expected Wednesday, but a determination from Elia is not expected for several weeks.

Paladino To Testify In Removal Hearing

On Tuesday, it’s Carl Paladino’s turn.

The controversial businessman faces removal from the Buffalo School Board and, on day four the hearing, Paladino will defend himself.

“I’m always excited,” Paladino said when asked about his planned appearance.

Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor and a prominent New York supporter of President Donald Trump, faces removal for allegedly revealing confidential information discussed in a school board executive session. Day three of the removal hearing in Albany featured three hours of testimony from Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash, who testified some of the information Paladino disclosed was inaccurate.

“Dr. Cash is nice enough guy, but he did a terrible job on the stand today,” said Paladino attorney Dennis Vacco. “He was evasive. He couldn’t remember, he couldn’t recall specifics of his communications with (Buffalo Federation of Teachers President) Phil Rumore.”

Vacco on Monday was frustrated as he has been for most of the hearing as school board members and othe witnesses declined to discuss the details of the executive session in question — saying it’s an attempt to hamstring Paladino’s effort to mount a defense.

“When we try to drill down on what was said, what’s confidential, what’s not confidential, he throws up roadblocks,” Vacco said.

It’s not clear what Paladino will discuss when he speaks at his removal hearing, but he will likely try to shine a light on the discussions surrounding the school board’s budget and contract talks last year, including the spending of money from a fund balance.

“We’re not going to allow them play the rope a dope game tomorrow with Carl on the stand,” Vacco said. “We’re going to hear exactly about that $10 million and what it meant to those negotiations.”

Paladino is not facing removal for racist commentary in an essay published last year by Art Voice, a newsweekly in Buffalo. Instead, his defense team has sought to claim Paladino was initially being removed for the comments, constitutionally protected by the first amendment. Frank Miller, the attorney hired by the school board in the removal case, did not address the media.

Paladino Files Lawsuit Against Buffalo School Board Members

Buffalo Public School Board member Carl Paladino has officially filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the other members on the board who are seeking his removal.

Paladino wants both compensatory and punitive damages from Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold, Sharon Belton-Cottman, Hope Jay, Dr. Teresa Harris-Tigg, Jennifer Mecozzi and Paulette Woods – commonly referred to as the board’s majority bloc.

Paladino and his attorney, former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco, claim the members conspired to infringe on Paladino’s freedom of speech. He claims they trumped up a petition to the state education for Paladino’s removal based on him allegedly disclosing confidential information, only after they learned racially-charged comments the board member made to the alternative Buffalo newspaper Artvoice were not grounds for removal.

“My client feels very strongly that his constitutional rights, including his right to free speech have been violated by the actions of the majority members of the Board, the Board of Education, and the school district as a result of a resolution that was passed seeking to remove my client from elected office.  Certain members of the Board of Education are seeking Carl’s removal in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights,” Vacco said.

This is not the first time we’ve heard this argument from Vacco. He’s submitted the same evidence to State Ed Commissioner MaryEllen Elia regarding her investigation into Paladino’s alleged misconduct.

A hearing about the petition for his removal is scheduled for next week in Albany.

Paladino Civil Rights Complaint by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Paladino Doesn’t Rule Out Running For Governor

Facing possible expulsion from the Buffalo School Board over racially charged and racist comments, Republican Carl Paladino in a radio interview on Friday did not rule out running for governor again in 2018.

At the same time, Paladino vowed in an interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom to file a legal challenge if he’s removed by the state Education Department from the school board.

“I may run for governor again, I don’t know,” Paladino said in the interview when asked if he would seek re-election the board.

Paladino last ran for governor in 2010, losing to incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

He’s since taken on the post of school board member in Buffalo and was a co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in New York.

Paladino was sharply criticized late last year when he wrote in a Buffalo-area newsweekly that Michele Obama should “return to being a man” and live in Africa with a gorilla.

He later emailed a meme advertising “Stop Blaming White People Month.”

“It’s humor,” Paladino said in the interview, adding, “You have to learn to laugh at these issues.”

Paladino insisted he was being unfairly targeted by his enemies over the removal, including the city’s teachers union.

The removal hearing is scheduled to begin in Albany on June 22. Paladino said the process will be “funny.”

Paladino Wars With Buffalo-Area Not-For-Profit

From the Morning Memo:

There appears to be a bit of a war brewing between Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino and the not-for-profit People United for Sustainable Housing (P.U.S.H. Buffalo).

Paladino circulated an official legal notice yesterday to his lengthy email listserv that he sent to the organization last week. The letter came in response to a protest P.U.S.H. held inside the Ellicott Square building, the headquarters of Ellicott Development of which Paladino is the chairman.

“PUSH Buffalo’s arbitrary, noisy, harassing intrusion in the Ellicott Square Building on June 2, 2017, with bullhorns, signs and arrogant people seeking to disturb, intimidate and frighten tenants and visitors to the building and its lobby was not only a trespass and a violation of the law, but also an ignorant, mindless imposition on privacy in a private building and clear evidence of your malicious intentions in slandering and defaming me and my companies,” Paladino wrote.

Paladino not only threatened legal action, but also said he was sending copies of the letter to the organizations donors and even the Internal Revenue Service. He said members of P.U.S.H. are no longer allowed in any Ellicott Development Facilities.

P.U.S.H. Community Organizer John Washington said the group doesn’t regret its decision to demonstrate.

“We went in and we expressed our opinions in public space; when the police asked us to leave, we left,” he said. “I mean, there may have been some disruption, but we complied with Buffalo police officers when they asked us to leave, and I just think that, you know, we were there for a total of maybe 15-20 minutes. I’m just a little bit surprised that (Paladino) would respond this way.”

While members of the not-for-profit have been regular critics of Paladino and his role on the Buffalo Public School Board, Washington said this particular protest concerned Ellicott Development’s role in the “gentrification” of Buffalo by building luxury apartments with public funds that could be used for affordable housing.

He did not rule out future protests, but said Paladino is not the only target.

“We want to make sure that people are aware that the developers of this city and this Buffalo boom are the ones who are directly causing the displacement and gentrification that has people across this city suffering,” Washington said. “Carl Paladino is a symbol of that but he’s not the only one.”

Paladino concluded his letter by calling for the Erie County District Attorney’s office and Buffalo Police to investigate P.U.S.H activities.

No Audio Or Video Recording Allowed Inside Paladino Hearing

No video or audio recordings will be allowed inside the hearing room adjudicating the case of Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino, according to guidelines released on Tuesday by the state Education Department.

The hearing, set to begin June 22 in Albany, will consider Paladino’s removal from the school board in Buffalo after he made a series of racially tinged remarks.

“No broadcasting or audio or video recordings will be permitted in the hearing room,” according to SED’s guidelines. “Still photography will be permitted as long as such activity does not cause distractions or otherwise interfere with the administration and advancement of the hearing.”

This appears to be in line with a state law that prohibits recording of proceedings in a which “a witness by subpoena or compulsory process is or may be taken.”

The hearing is expected to draw a large audience and SED warned there is “extremely limited seating available” to the public.

A viewing room located at Chancellor’s Hall at 89 Washington Ave. is being made available.

SED Allows New Evidence From Paladino In Removal Case

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has decided to allow new evidence in regards to a petition calling for the removal of Carl Paladino from his position on the Buffalo Public School Board.

Paladino’s attorney Dennis Vacco, a former state attorney general, asked for permission to submit the evidence last month.

Among the evidence allowed are video recordings and minutes of meetings held between Oct. 12, 2016 and Jan. 18, 2017, as well as an invoice for the legal fees incurred by Paladino’s opponents on the board.

Vacco argued the materials were not available to him during the time period he was initially supposed to reply to state Ed, and maintains they prove his client was actually the victim of a coordinated attack on his first amendment rights.

“Early on the commissioner did not allow Carl Paladino, as it relates to the conspiracy theory, that they were conspiring against him, she didn’t allow that evidence in because all of that stuff was submitted after the date that you had to admit it,” Buffalo District Parent Coordinating Council President Sam Radford explained.

Four separate groups filed petitions for Paladino’s removal following racially-charged remarks the board member made to an alternative weekly newspaper late last year about former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Vasco said the board asked Paladino be ousted for violating confidentiality rules, while at the same time assisting two other groups in focusing their complaint around the comments.

The attorney argued the board knew that wasn’t grounds for removal, but still wanted others to make the complaint. Radford said the commissioner’s decision yesterday leads him to believe she is taking the conspiracy accusations seriously.

“I think it means more money being spent to fight this case. I think it means more grounds for appeal,” he said. “I think it means this thing drags out. I think it means by the time this thing is done, it will be a new election anyway.”

Radford’s group has also called for Paladino’s removal, but took its petition one step further, recommending the entire district be put into receivership. He said the more this situation develops, the more certain he is that was the right course of action.

“This thing has spiraled into something that takes away from the education of our children, which is the reason why we’re saying at the end of the day, if we can’t get a handle on this, it’s better from our perspective for the district to be in receivership,” Radford said.

So far though, the commissioner has only scheduled a hearing for one of the cases, the board’s. That will be held in Albany on June 22.

Radford admitted he was a little disappointed she didn’t include the DPCC’s request, too.

“We actually have submitted two letters to the commissioner asking for an explanation about the process and to find out what happens,” he said.

Radford said the council’s advisor believes that because the issues in their appeal are technically different, they may not be able to be heard at the same time. But members still want an official answer from NYSED.

Buffalo BOE Responds To Paladino’s Conspiracy Accusations

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.

Ex-AG Helps Paladino Bring Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Colleagues

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.

Paladino Plans To Allege Conspiracy Against His Freedom Of Speech In Federal Lawsuit

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.

 

Paladino Stay Request and DPCC Response by Ryan Whalen on Scribd