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Can Carl Paladino be removed from the Buffalo School Board?

Posted at 6:34 PM, Dec 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-26 18:34:50-05

Several community leaders are calling for Carl Paladino to resign his position with the Buffalo School Board, but the prominent Western New York developer has stood by comments that sparked controversy.

In an article published by Artvoice, Paladino responded to a number of questions via email.  His responses included wishing for President Obama to die from mad cow disease and hoping for Michelle Obama to "return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe".

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is one local lawmaker calling for Paladino to be removed from his position with the school board.

"Carl's openly divisive, racist and hateful comments will not be tolerated and should be grounds for his removal from elected office," she said.

Others in the community have asked Paladino to resign, but as he continues to stand by his comments that outcome seems unlikely.

"I don't think that's likely going to happen," said Samuel Radford, President of the BPS District Parent Coordinating Committee.  "Those people who have jurisdiction have to begin to look to address this situation."

It is a complicated process if the board eventually looks to remove Paladino.  While it has happened locally in the past, the process works differently in Buffalo.

The Hamburg School Board voted to remove one of its member in 2014.  Catherine Forcucci appealed the decision but it was upheld by a judge in August.  The Buffalo School District, however, doesn't have any similar power.

"The board does not have the authority to remove a sitting board member," said Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold, Board President.  "We don't have the authority to sanction or to censure Mr. Paladino.  That is not what we can do."

According to the Buffalo Public Schools bylaws, the authority to remove a sitting board member is reserved for only the current state Commissioner of Education.

The NYS Education Department holds its commissioner to three criteria allowing for removal of a board member.

That board member must have "intentionally and with a wrongful purpose" violated the law, neglected his duty or disobeyed a "decision, order or regulation" from the Commissioner.  NYSED's website says "the Commissioner will not remove a school officer if he or she has merely used poor judgment".

This isn't the first time Carl Paladino's words have gotten him into hot water.  In October, his support for comments made by then-presidential candidate Donald Trump regarding sexual assault caused an outcry in the community.