Accusations fly in third day of hearing to remove Paladino

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Carl Paladino is expected to take the stand Tuesday in the state petition hearing to remove him from the Buffalo Board of Education. But he will in all likelihood be cross examined by Frank Miller, the attorney for the petitioners, and that is expected to be a major sticking point, as it was Monday.

Monday’s hearing, which started at 1 p.m., opened with testimony from Buffalo Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash.

Cash testified that when he arrived in the Queen City in 2015, relations between the district and teachers union were filled with animosity.

So he stepped in, fired the lead negotiator, and took over bargaining for a new contract, which had expired more than a decade earlier.

Eventually, he hammered out an agreement in October of 2016, and admitted Monday he asked the school board for additional money from the district’s reserve fund to seal the deal. But he couldn’t quite remember how much.

“He was evasive, he didn’t remember, he couldn’t recall specifics of his communication with (BuffaloTeachers Federation President) Phil Rumore. He didn’t even know how much money, how much additional money, he had to take out of the reserve fund,” said Dennis Vacco, attorney for Carl Paladino. “Either he was purposefully being evasive to do the bidding of the six board members who are bringing this petition, or he just simply doesn’t recall. But when we’re talking about millions upon millions of dollars, you would expect better.”

That was part of the information Paladino released in a Jan. 5 article in ArtVoice, and is one of the confidential disclosures that’s the subject of the petition to remove him. Paladino wrote Cash asked the board for an additional $10 million to help pad contract talks.

When asked specifically how much he requested from the board, he replied, “I had a number in my head.”

When pressed further by Vacco, Cash answered, “I can’t answer that.”

Frank Miller, who represents the majority of the board that filed the petition with the state education department, disagreed.

“I don’t think Kriner Cash was evasive at all,” he said. “He delt specifically with the issues, and keep in mind he was constrained about what he could say about what could be released with the executive session (law), and what couldn’t be.

After Cash, the petitioners rested their case, and it was Vacco’s and co-counsel Jennifer Persico’s turn to begin their presentation, starting with board member and Paladino ally Patricia Pierce.

Pierce agreed confidential information about bargaining with the teacher’s union should have been public when Paladino penned his Jan. 5 article, since the contract had been inked months earlier.

But fireworks erupted in the hearing when it was time for Miller to cross examine, Pierce, who Persico and Vacco described as his former client.

“That’s an extreme violation of the disciplinary role, that you cannot take a position adverse to a former client,” Vacco said after the hearing. “I think that it shows how desperate they are. I think that this case has fallen apart.”

Miller staunchly disagreed when reached late Monday.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has weighed in on this issue,” Miller said. “My client is not Patty Pierce. My client is the Board of Education of the city of Buffalo, the corporate entity. The law is clear … The Supreme Court has made it clear, that the lawyer’s obligation is to the entity, not the individual.”

Miller said he will address the case law and Vacco’s comments during Tuesday’s hearing.

“That’s a slanderous accusation,” he said. “It’s improper to make that accusation. This is not the fact. This is another attempt at misdirection, another attempt at creating an issue where there is none. We don’t represent those individuals. We represent the entity.”

In addition to the testimony from Paladino and board member — and another Paladino ally — Larry Quinn, Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia requested attorneys from both sides have their closing arguments ready on Tuesday. But closing arguments are not expected until Wednesday.

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