Carl Paladino has refused to step down from his position on the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education. The Board voted 6-2 on Thursday demanding he resign and giving him 24 hours to do so. The Board is now consulting with its lawyers to prepare to acquire outside counsel to file a petition with the NYS Education Department to have Paladino forced out of his post.
But right now, it's not clear whether NYS Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia will be able to legally remove the board member. According to NYSED, a board member cannot be removed unless there is proof he or she broke a state law or neglected their official duties.
"Simply exercising your free speech, however disgusting, offensive and awful it may be, is not in and of itself grounds for losing an elected position," explained 7Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Florina Altshiler.
The school board claims Paladino violated the Dignity for All Students Act, a state law that requires school districts to ensure places of learning are free of discrimination and harassment. This all stems from comments Paladino made last week in an edition of Artvoice.
Altshiler says it will be difficult for the board to prove Paladino's comments, made outside his official duties as a board member, had a negative effect on the school environment.
"Without there being a connection between him making these comments as a private citizen, in a non-school board capacity, it is difficult to establish that he violated state law," Altshiler said.
That's based on what the public knows now. Altshiler said if more evidence is presented to Commissioner Elia, removal could be possible.
The Buffalo Common Council's Education Committee is holding a meeting in Council Chambers on Thursday, January 5, at 1:30 p.m.. The public will be allowed to comment on Carl Paladino. All comments made, along with a resolution passed by the Council this week calling for his removal from the board, will be sent to Commissioner Elia.
The School Board has scheduled a special meeting in Room 801 of City Hall for Wednesday, January 4, at 5:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to "select outside counsel".
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