Carl P. Paladino has issued a statement saying he will not resign from the Buffalo School Board, despite a growing chorus of calls for his removal.
Paladino provided the statement to WBEN radio, which aired a reading of it live this morning.
In his statement, Paladino said he did not intend to send his comments to Artvoice for publication, but rather thought he was forwarding it to friends. He also apologized to the minority community if he offended them, but took jabs at his critics.
"I don't intend to yield to the fanatics among my adversaries," he wrote in the statement.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) released a letter he sent to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, calling on her to use her authority to remove Paladino from office. Ryan argued that Paladino's behavior is an impediment to the board's ability to conduct business.
“The comments Mr. Paladino made are not just disrespectful and repulsive, they are an impediment to the proper functioning of the board," Ryan wrote. "The board will be unable to carry out its duties to oversee the education of more than 34,000 students, with a member of the board causing constant chaos with his actions.
The local representative to the New York State Board of Regents said the department's legal staff is looking into options for removing Buffalo School Board Member Carl P. Paladino from office.
Catherine Collins said that all 17 members of the board -- to which State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia reports -- are very concerned about the racially inflammatory remarks Paladino made last week. She added that she has spoken both with Elia and Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, who has asked for legal advice about what the state has the authority to do in this situation.
"Betty has spoken to her and Betty has asked for some insight into legally what we can do and what we can't do," Collins said. "We're trying to make this right."
Meanwhile, the Buffalo School Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday to discuss "board member conduct." Buffalo school board members have previously asked for legal advice regarding whether they can vote to remove a board member.
Several community organizations, as well as the Buffalo Teachers Federation, plan to rally outside City Hall the day of the meeting.
There has been a growing chorus from the public and local officials to remove Paladino from the board. Nearly 20,000 people had signed at least three online petitions seeking his removal after he told the weekly paper Artvoice about his wishes for 2017. Paladino said that he hoped mad cow disease would kill President Obama and that first lady Michelle Obama should "return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."
There are different legal interpretations, however, about who can remove an elected school board member from office.
Generally, the authority falls to the state education commissioner, but there have been instances when local school boards have voted to oust one of their members.
Regardless, at both the local and state levels there appears to be a push to get Paladino off the board.
Although commissioner Elia would be the one to act at the state level, she reports to the Board of Regents. Last week Rosa, the regents chancellor, issued a statement that Collins said was supported by all 17 members.
"As adults we are morally bound to ensure both the physical and emotional well-being of our children," Rosa wrote. "All of us serve as role models for our young people. In a time when we should be focused on the issues of respect and unification, I personally find it unacceptable for anyone who touches the lives of our children to speak in this manner... This kind of language does not belong within the context of our communities and our schools. Being an American demands we respect the office of the President. That's what we teach our children in New York State as part of our civic learning, and it's a lesson that Mr. Paladino apparently needs to review."
When asked whether the Board of Regents had any authority to remove Paladino, Collins said it is her understanding the commissioner can act.
"But she works on behalf of us anyway," she said.