This week, the New York State Education Department will hear an application from the City of Buffalo school to remove Carl Paladino from his seat on the Buffalo school board. While there have been a few controversies surrounding Paladino around the last year, not all will be the subject of this hearing.
What will be discussed?
The petition to remove Paladino focuses on two key events. The first is an email sent on December 22nd, 2016 to the president of the Buffalo School Board and members of the local media. According to the petition, the email disclosed confidential information regarding pending litigation, as well as legal advice from the board's attorney's related to that litigation, obtained in an executive session the day before.
The second incident revolves around an article in Artvoice on January 5th. This isn't the same article that led to an outcry over his comments about then President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Instead, this revolves around a later article, with Carl Paladino as the byline (or author), in which petitioners claim he disclosed information about a personnel matter, and information regarding collective bargaining negotiations -- which he learned at a meeting back in October, 2016.
How is Paladino responding?
Paladino has stated from the beginning that he's done nothing wrong, and according to the petition -- Paladino admits to both sending the email and writing the Artvoice article. But he denies that the information he disclosed was subject to confidentiality and that the information was already made public by third parties.
According to the petition, Paladino also contends his actions were "taken with the intent to prevent crime or fraud" and that the board is attempting to "infringe upon and chill constitutionally protected free speech." Paladino has filed a lawsuit against BPS related to this claim, seeking a trial by jury.
While the petition itself doesn't go into detail, it does say that Paladino also "raises several affirmative defenses.
What kind of "confidential" information are we talking about here?
While the two incidents are separate, the information from the email is generally speaking the same information that Paladino referenced in the January 5th Artvoice article.
Let's start with the personnel matter. That's most likely referring to Paladino's take on the school's ability to hire a swimming coach. In the article, Paladino writes, "For instance, the BPS in unable to select a swimming coach at a school based on ability because seniority comes first. It is foolish and laughable, especially when there is a financial stipend incentive, for teachers with no expertise teaching swimming to take the job. We actually have schools with swimming coaches who can't swim."
The second major issue is the information regarding collective bargaining negotiations, which is the entire crux of the Artvoice article. It's unclear, at least currently, which parts are confidential and which parts were discussed in public. But there are a lot of details: including information about teachers "lifetime private health care," how to deal with the school's reserve budget, and more general statements about, in Paladino's opinion, Buffalo Teachers Federation Phil Rumore's "superior negotiating skills."
But what about that "other" Artvoice article?
You're talking about the December 23rd Artvoice article, where a lot of Buffalo leaders were asked four questions about what they were looking forward to. In that article, Paladino was quoted saying things like he would like then-President Obama to catch "mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Heford." and that he would like Michelle Obama to "return to being a male."
This article was the subject of a first attempt by the school board to remove Paladino, but upon advice of their lawyers, they changed course -- leading to the complaints made in the current petition.
So what happens now?
The hearing begins on Thursday (we'll be covering) and while it's open to the public, there was so much interest that the crowd in a public viewing had to be limited by a lottery. The hearing will go through Thursday, Friday and next Monday, before a report will filed to the state's Education Commissioner. It will be her job to make a final decision on the matter.
There's no timetable for when a decision could be made.
Who will be speaking at the hearing?
We'll hear from lawyers from both sides, but more than a dozen people are scheduled to testify, including members of the Buffalo school board:
- Sharon Belton-Cottman
- Kriner Cash
- Dr. Theresa Harris-Tigg
- Hope Jay
- Nathaniel Zuzma
- Jennifer Mecozzi
- Patricia Pierce
- Geoff Pritchard (BOE Chief Financial Officer)
- Lawrence Quinn
- Jeanettte Robe (or a representative of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority
- Phil Rumore
- Paulette Woods
- Carl Paladino
- Barbara Seals Nevergold
We don't know what order the witnesses will be called.
What kind of coverage can we expect?
We'll have a crew in Albany for the entire hearing, but there won't be any audio or video recordings, or a live stream of any sorts inside the hearing.