Closing arguments took place Wednesday morning in a NYS Education Department hearing over whether Carl Paladino should be removed from the Buffalo School Board of Education.
The racist comments he made during an Artvoice article in December aren't the subject of a petition filed by six of his fellow board members seeking to remove him. But, both parties made it clear they are every bit a part of this case and for very different reasons.
Paladino's attorney Dennis Vacco believes the remarks are the real motivation behind a petition seeking Paladino's removal from the board. "If we can't get him on that, meaning his speech, because they clearly found out during the course of Mr. Miller's representation that the resolution on the 29th was illegal, sanctioning him for his speech, seeking removal for speech, if we can't get him on that we'll get him on this," Vacco said to reporters following his closing arguments.
Not true argues board majority attorney, Frank Miller. Instead, he believes Paladino is using the racist comments as a distraction. During his closing arguments, he made a new revelation about why Paladino chose to go public with private information. "He wanted to set the record straight. He wanted to try and rehabilitate himself after his disastrous remarks on Dec 23. So I think he tried to spice up the article by including stuff that he was describing as being from executive session."
Miller also made the argument Paladino's disclosures are detrimental for future contract negotiations.
Paladino spoke publicly for the first time since this hearing started. He said he shared the information related to Buffalo TeachersFederation contract negotiations with the publics best interest in mind. "The public has a right to know that their negotiator is weak, is panicking, is irresponsible."
Furthermore, he said the board didn't take issue with his alleged disclosures until after it passed what's now considered an illegal resolution seeking his removal for the hate speech.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ali Touhey: Do you plan to remove the illegal resolution from the record?
Board President Barbara Seals-Nevergold: We will consult with our attorney.
Vacco called that resolution and the meeting when it was passed a public flogging. He said the board violated its Code of Conduct that day when one board member referred to Paladino as an "orange Cheetos."
Touhey: Do you wish you shut that down?
Nevergold: I wish I did. It was a highly charged period of time. I'm sorry I said that. I'm sorry I didn't shut that down.
All that aside, the Commissioner's ruling will boil down to one thing: whether Paladino shared private information he learned during executive sessions.
Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will issue a written ruling later this summer. She could decide Paladino is at fault, but not remove him from the board. Neither side was willing to speculate on what it will do if it loses.
Paladino said it's too early to say whether he'd run for public office again should he be removed from the school board.