Paladino To Sue School Board Over Ouster Effort

Attorney Vacco Cites Civil Rights Violations, Conspiracy

Dave Debo
April 04, 2017 - 6:18 am
Carl Paladino and other members of the Buffalo School Board

WBEN Photo


(WBEN) A federal lawsuit is coming from Carl Paladino saying that the groups that are trying to remove him from the Buffalo School Board conspired together against him -- to deprive him of his civil rights. 

The expected federal lawsuit is revealed in a letter Dennis Vacco, an attorney with Lippes Mathias Wexler and Friedman sent to the state education commissioner on Paladino's behalf; his filing was made public by the District Parent Coordinating Council as part of their renewed call to have the entire board replaced with a state-appointed manager.

In the letter, (Read it at the bottom of this page)  Vacco alleges that there is evidence of a conspiracy against Paladino, and that the board recruited people to bring accusations against him that they couldn't make on their own.  

The lawsuit will seek damages and the annulment of the ouster requests pending before New York State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia.

"Mr. Paladino has raised the affirmative defense that he is the victim of a conspiracy to retaliate against him for his constitutionally protected speech. We write today to submit newly-discovered, concrete evidence of an illegal conspiracy between the (Board of Education) the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization... and the New York State United Teachers union," Vacco writes. 

Pointing to an invoice sent to the board by outside attorney Frank Miller working on the Paladino ouster, Vacco alleges that  Miller was working improperly with both the Buffalo PTO and NYSUT-The New York State United Teachers' Union.   The PTO had hired the NAACP legal fund to develop the petition against Paladino, and the invoice that Vacco referenced shows a consultation with them.

The Vacco letter also alleges that Miller worked on a model petition against Paladino that was submitted by the other groups, and that Miller reviewed their petitions before they were sent to Albany.

"It is now irrefutable that the Illegal Cases represent a coordinated assault on Mr. Paladino's constitutional rights.  Based on this anticipated litigation, we further request that the Commissioner stay all proceedings and deadlines in the Illegal Cases pending final adjudication of Mr, Paladino's federal lawsuit," Vacco, a former NYS Attorney general, wrote.

The drive to remove Paladino from the school board comes after he told the alternative newspaper Artvoice that as part of his wishes for 2017  he wanted to see President Obama dead of mad cow disease and First Lady Michelle Obama living with a gorilla in Africa. He now says the comments weren't meant for publication but were nevertheless "inappropriate."

The PTO, NYSUT and the Board of Education have said that the remarks should disqualify him from serving on the Board of Education.

“The impact on children of color, especially African-American children, are incalculable,” said board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. “How do we encourage them to inspire them to use their God-given talents too soar, to reach for the stars, when a sitting board member responsible for their education demonstrates such contempt of their role models.”

Miller and the Buffalo School Board, the PTO, and NYSUT could not be reached for comment. 


Attorney Paul Cambria
"This is.. basically a statement that a government-affiliated entity or person is violating a civil right, here most likely the first amendment,"says WBEN Legal Analyst Paul Cambria, an attorney with Lippes Green Scime and Cambria in Buffalo and a national expert on freedom of speech cases. 

"I think it's a good idea to file this in federal court," Cambria says. "I've said this from the very beginning.. that he can't be punished because somebody doesn't like what he has to say. That's the essence of the first amendment. That you can say something, that it can be controversial, it can be unpopular. But the point is that is exactly what the first amendment was designed to do." 

Parent Council Pres. Sam Radford
As a result of the Vacco letter, the District Parent Coordinating Council Council, led by President Sam Radford (pictured L) is again asking Commissioner Elia to replace all the board members with an independent receiver.

Their petition says the Vacco material raises new information about possible "collusion and conflicts of interest," bolstering their case for replacement of the current board members.

The District Parent Coordinating Council has filed similar petitions four times before, but are now incorporating the Vacco material into a fresh request.   The Vacco letter on Paladino's behalf is included in their latest petition and was made public by them as part of that effort.  

They also suggest that they could possibly join in the federal case as an "intervenor", a party with special interest in the case because of their duty to represent students in the district.  




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