In his first public statements since Carl P. Paladino made racist and inflammatory comments about the Obamas, Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said there must be consequences for his behavior.
In a rare move, Cash allowed Paladino to respond to speakers who turned out to condemn the remarks that were published last month in Artvoice. Board members do not usually respond to speakers. Cash said he wanted to give Paladino the opportunity to address the criticism that has mounted in recent weeks, and give him an opportunity to accept his behavior.
Cash also noted that in the wake of the original comments, Paladino's behavior only seemed to escalate.
"It will never be acceptable to say anything that has racist undertones, that has violent undertones," Cash said.
Cash's remarks came after a majority of Buffalo School Board members signed off on a second attempt to petition State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to remove Paladino from his position. Cash, who Elia recommended for the superintendent job, has a long working history with the commissioner.
In this attempt, Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman makes the argument that Paladino should be removed from the board because he shared information that was discussed in executive session. District policy prohibits board members from sharing information discussed in executive session because it can inhibit the district's ability to do business. In an article for Artvoice, Paladino revealed private conversations that took place last fall during negotiations for a new Buffalo Teachers Federation contract.
The proposal passed 6-3, with Paladino, Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn objecting.
Prior to the vote, Pierce said that the board was advised by its attorney the first resolution it passed seeking Paladino's removal was illegal. That resolution called on Paladino to resign within 24 hours, which the board does not have the authority to do. State education law prohibits board members from censuring or reprimanding their elected colleagues.
"I want the public to know that that was an illegal resolution," Pierce said. "We were advised that that was an illegal resolution and that no member on this board has the authority to ask another member to resign."
Belton-Cottman responded by saying the board passed that resolution without seeking legal counsel.
The proposal is just the latest call to petition Elia to remove Paladino from office since his comments about President Obama and the first lady, remarks condemned by many as racist, were published last month in Artvoice.
Earlier Wednesday, the state teachers union filed the first petition with the state education department asking Elia to remove him.
New York State United Teachers filed the petition on behalf of five Buffalo teachers, arguing that Paladino's recent comments about President and First Lady Obama violate his duty as a board member to serve as a role model for the school community.
The petition specifically states that Paladino's comments, which were published in Artvoice last month, violate the state's Dignity for All Students Act, which requires districts to ensure students an education environment free of harassment, bullying and discrimination. The petition also references Paladino's disclosure of information that was discussed in a board executive session.
"Through his racist ranting, Carl Paladino has not only undermined the state's anti-bullying law and district policies against harassment and discrimination, he has also violated his oath to comport himself responsibly as a board member," NYSUT President Karen Magee wrote in a statement. "He is a poor role model who has proven himself unfit; is a disgrace to all the dedicated members serving on school boards throughout the state; and he must be removed."