State Supreme Court Justice Tracey A. Bannister has dismissed Carl P. Paladino’s petition to remove fellow Buffalo School Board member Barbara A. Seals Nevergold from the board on the grounds that she should have run for election in 2013.
The ruling represents Paladino’s third attempt to get Nevergold off the board. He previously submitted two petitions to state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. that were rejected.
In her ruling, Bannister essentially stated that Paladino’s petition was invalid for three reasons:
• The matters brought before the court were already presented to King, and the commissioner ruled against Paladino.
• Paladino made his petition request too late to be considered.
• Even if Nevergold should have run for her at-large seat in May of last year – as Paladino contends, since Nevergold was not challenged and continued to serve as a board member – she is considered a “holdover” official. Therefore, any actions she took as a board member between then and now are still considered valid.
“The Order to Show Cause is denied in all respects,” Bannister concluded.
Nevergold, the current board president, said Tuesday that she was relieved by the ruling and called Paladino’s petition a “personal assault.”
“Obviously, I’m pleased that I have prevailed,” she said. “It would have been extremely disruptive to the district at a time when we are dealing with another disruption of the superintendent leaving. Given everything that has happened over this past year, the one thing we need less of is disruptive activity.”
Nevergold also said Paladino’s continuing efforts to get her unseated are all forms of bullying.
“Mr. Paladino bullies, intimidates and harasses individuals he disagrees with,” she said. “This is another form of bullying, as far as I’m concerned.”
She also stated that two weeks ago, Paladino told her he would drop his court petition if she would sign an affidavit pledging not to vote to extend the contracts of Superintendent Pamela C. Brown or interim Deputy Superintendent Mary E. Guinn.
“He was trying to extort from me an agreement not to vote my conscience,” she said.
Paladino said Bannister’s decision was based on “process,” not the merits of the case. He has 30 days to appeal, but said he hasn’t decided whether he will.
Last fall, Paladino sent King a petition seeking Nevergold’s removal for various alleged misdeeds since she became board president in July. King denied that petition March 12 for technical reasons.
On the same date, King also denied Paladino’s second petition, which was more worrisome to Nevergold and Karl W. Kristoff, the district’s outside counsel.
In that petition, filed in November, Paladino contended that Nevergold was holding her seat illegally because she did not run for election last year as required by state education law.
Nevergold began serving on the board in January 2012, after the board appointed her to fill the remainder of Christopher L. Jacobs’ term following his election as Erie County clerk. Since Jacobs’ at-large seat was not up for election until May of this year, Nevergold said she was informed that she would not be required to run until then.
Paladino contended that the board’s own policy would have required Nevergold, as an appointee, to run for election at the very next opportunity. That would have been in May of last year, when seats from the individual districts – but not at-large seats – were on the ballot.
Paladino took that argument to State Supreme Court early this month. In issuing a decision this week, Bannister left unanswered the question of whether Nevergold should have run for election last year or waited until this year.
Instead, she stated that regardless of when she should have run, her current position on the board remains legal and legitimate.
Nevergold was elected to an at-large seat May 6 for a five-year term that begins July 1.
To read Bannister’s decision, visit the School Zone blog at www.buffalonews.com/schoolzone email: firstname.lastname@example.org