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Paladino vows lawsuit over mayoral control

In the latest plot twist in the continuing drama about proposed mayoral control of the Buffalo Public Schools, Carl P. Paladino said he will file a legal challenge if the bill passes in the State Legislature.

The School Board member argues that it is unconstitutional to remove elected officials from office without cause.

“You can’t remove them unless they’ve done something wrong,” said Paladino, who is also a lawyer. “I could take that into court and kill them.”

Paladino made the comment shortly after Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, filed the bill, which would immediately dissolve the School Board and turn control of the district over to the mayor.

One of the board’s five majority bloc members, Paladino has become a central figure in the debate about the proposal, which is being pushed by fellow businessman Robert G. Wilmers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Paladino political foe.

Paladino made his intentions clear in an email sent to thousands of people included on a Listserv account where he regularly publishes his opinion. In it, he also took shots at Mayor Byron W. Brown and Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen on the issue of mayoral control of schools.

“If it were to pass State government, it will never survive in the courts,” Paladino wrote. “The lack of basic understanding of constitutional law by Byron Brown and Darius Pridgen is astounding. What if every time we disagreed with one of their decisions we threw them out of office?”

He then went on to criticize business leaders who also are supporting the bill, including Wilmers, the M&T Bank chairman and CEO.

“As a member of the present BOE majority who entered the arena, I say to the ingrates seeking mayoral control ‘you don’t have the gut to lead or any desire to follow, so get the hell out of our way,’ ” he wrote.

He called the push for mayoral control a “cowardly conspiracy of Black elected and not elected leaders, union leadership and private business people to maintain the status quo for their own empowerment.”

It is still uncertain whether the Peoples-Stokes bill has enough political support in Albany to gain approval before the legislative session ends June 17.

If it passes, it would give the mayor the power to appoint a new superintendent and a new School Board to try to turn around the struggling district.

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore, not normally on the same side of issues as Paladino, has said the union also might mount a legal challenge if the bill is enacted. He said the bill might violate the City Charter.

email: tlankes@buffnews.com