ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) – Thursday was the first day of testimony in the hearing against Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino.
The Buffalo School Board is seeking to remove Paladino as a member.
The hearing, taking place at the state education building in Albany, is being treated much like a court case. Both sides gave opening statements Thursday, followed by testimony from witnesses, portions of which got heated.
Buffalo School Board President Dr. Barbara Nevergold took the stand Thursday as a witness, defending herself and the decision to file a petition with the State Education Department to have Paladino removed.
Paladino’s attorneys, Dennis Vacco and Jennifer Persico, said Thursday a majority of the school board met in secret to decide to file a petition for their client’s ouster.
“There’s a concept in the law of unclean hands.” Vacco said. “How do they violate every rule in the book, how do they violate their own code of conduct, the open meetings law? And then all of the sudden, show up here sanctimoniously, claiming that Carl was the bad guy.”
Vacco alleged the board’s majority got together in a secret meeting to decide to “go after” Paladino.
“The board didn’t take any official action,” Vacco said. “A bunch of you got together in a secret meeting to decide, ‘Okay, we’re now going after Carl on this point’ without any public expose of that, without any public meeting, without any discussion in public about that decision.”
Frank Miller, attorney for the Buffalo Board of Education, said the board’s petition to remove Paladino revolves entirely on his disclosures about personnel matters involving a principal, contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, and lawsuits involving the district and developer LP Ciminelli. Those disclosures were printed in two articles that appeared in ArtVoice in January.
All of those topics are protected by the state’s executive session laws.
Paladino’s attorneys said Thursday the majority of the board violated their own policies by meeting in private to make the decision to file a petition with the state.
But Miller said the board’s majority — the six members who filed the petition and who are his clients — acted well within the state open meetings law.
“The law is that if you were meeting privately with your attorneys, you are entitled to do so, and that constitutes an exemption to the open meetings law,” Miller said.
The hearing is scheduled to run into next week. After the schedule of witnesses is fulfilled, the board will await a decision from the commissioner, which may not be delivered for weeks or months after the hearing comes to an end.