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Attorneys close questioning in Paladino hearing

Attorneys have finished questioning Carl P. Paladino, the last witness to testify in the hearing to determine if he can keep his seat on the Buffalo School Board.

Both sides will return Wednesday to deliver their closing arguments in the case. It will then be up to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to decide if he can keep his elected position.

Paladino's testimony is the last in what has been a long and at times grueling four days of proceedings that was supposed to center on whether Paladino violated board policy when he disclosed information discussed in an executive session.

But Paladino's legal team has managed to successfully redirect the hearing's focus, arguing that those seeking his removal are retaliating against him for the comments he made late last year about President Obama and his wife, not disclosing confidential information.

The prominent developer took the stand just as protesters were starting to gather outside of the education department chanting: "Hey hey, ho ho, Paladino has got to go." Their chants were audible inside the building as Paladino gave his testimony.

"We brought with us the voices of the people of Buffalo," said protester Caitlin Crowell.

Paladino also said that he would take back the inflammatory comments he made about President Obama and his wife that cast him in the national spotlight.

"I regret the shame I brought on myself and my kids," Paladino said. "It wasn't a good day for me."

The recognition came on the fourth day of testimony in the hearing to determine if before State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who will ultimately decide Paladino's fate.

Paladino spent much of his testimony lambasting the people and issues that have been in his crosshairs since joining the Buffalo School Board, essentially turning the hearing into a platform for his criticism.

"I saw things I just didn't feel were right," Paladino testified. "I looked at the Buffalo Public Schools as a very dysfunctional thing."

During his testimony Paladino ticked off a litany of assertions about his foes including:

  • Condemned what he referred to as the long-standing ineptitude of Buffalo school leaders, taking a shot in particular at former superintendent Pamela Brown. Paladino said he ran for the board because he felt the city needed leaders dedicated to breaking the record of poor performance, "not like that Brown woman."
  • Criticized Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore, calling him a "schemer" and saying he has no respect for his integrity.
  • Referred to former School Board President James Sampson, as "like an Anthony Kennedy you couldn’t depend upon him to be there."
  • Asserted Superintendent Kriner Cash did not know what he was getting into when he took the job, saying that he did not fully understand the political dynamics on the board and with the teacher union. "I think Kriner Cash is a very bright guy ... but I didn't see him understanding the nature of our board and the fact he would ... have to deal with very onerous people who had different agendas," Paladino said.
  • Blamed New York State United Teachers for attempting to oust him during the May 2016 election.
  • Alleged the Joint Schools Construction Board was guilty of "corruption" in its management of a $1.3 billion construction project handled by LPCiminelli.

Paladino also testified that he decided to run for the Buffalo School Board after his failed gubernatorial bid in 2010, when someone suggested Paladino start his political career on the School Board or city Council and work his way up.

His attorney, Dennis Vacco, tried to describe how important it was for Paladino to get the contract settled. Paladino testified that his colleagues on the board wanted the same – but not for the same reasons.

Vacco also tried to paint a picture that it was important for Paladino to get a contract that was good for both teachers and the district. The contract negotiations are central to the hearing because those seeking his removal allege that Paladino disclosed confidential information about negotiations that was discussed in an executive session.

"Everybody on the board wanted to settle the teachers contract," Paladino said. "Some wanted to settle the contract carelessly, recklessly ... and with abandon."

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