The effort to remove Carl P. Paladino underscores the long-standing tensions that have dogged the factious Buffalo School Board, tensions that escalated after Paladino was first elected in 2013.
Since then, there have been several other attempts among board members to remove one another. Those include:
• Just months after joining the board, Paladino filed two different petitions asking the state education commissioner to remove Barbara Seals Nevergold from her position. One alleged a variety of misdeeds, ranging from violations of board policy and the Open Meetings Law to poor conduct and mismanagement. The other alleged that Nevergold was holding her seat illegally because she did not run for election as required by state education law. Rather, she was appointed and finished the term of her predecessor. Former education Commissioner John B. King Jr. denied both petitions.
• Around the same time, Joan L. Simmons petitioned for his removal, arguing that he is an "unnecessary, destructive distraction to the board." King also denied that petition.
• The following year, Paladino’s foes petitioned for the removal of his ally Jason McCarthy over the same allegation Paladino now faces – that he shared information discussed in an executive session. In March, Elia denied that petition on the grounds that McCarthy no longer serves on the board, making the complaint moot after he lost his re-election bid.
• Then in 2015, Paladino’s foes again sought his dismissal in a letter to the commissioner – not a formal petition – this time accusing him of bullying and intimidation in trying to force the selection of his favored candidate for superintendent.
There have been numerous other occasions during which board members have publicly chastised Paladino or submitted resolutions condemning him for his comments.
And Paladino usually fires back.
In this latest case, Paladino on June 14 filed a lawsuit suing those board members seeking his removal, saying they are trying to violate his First Amendment right to free speech. Part of his case focuses on the fact that Buffalo School Board members initially passed a resolution vowing to seek his removal for comments published in Artvoice, saying they violated the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, which requires school systems to ensure students can attend school in an environment free of harassment and discrimination.
But just a few weeks later they reversed course after their attorney advised them that seeking his dismissal for the comments did in fact violate his free speech rights and would not likely hold up in court.
The majority of board members then passed a second resolution seeking his removal for allegedly violating the board’s policy against revealing information shared in executive session. On paper, that is the issue that will be before the commissioner.