Carl Paladino has been removed from the Buffalo school board, after the state education commissioner ruled on Thursday that the controversial former New York gubernatorial candidate had improperly disclosed sensitive board information to the public.
Paladino’s removal from the board is effective immediately, according to a statement from the board’s attorney to the Buffalo News. The decision follows a five-day hearing in Albany. Paladino was elected to the board in 2013.
The commissioner determined that Paladino had publicly disclosed private information obtained in an executive session. In December, he sent an email to the board president and to journalists that included information discussed with the board’s lawyer in private.
Already a controversial figure before the private disclosure scandal, Paladino faced widespread outrage last December after he responded to a poll in a local newspaper with racially-charged statements. Asked in the poll what he would like to see “go away” in the year ahead, Paladino said he hoped then-President Barack Obama would die of mad cow disease and then-First Lady Michelle Obama would “return to being a male” and be “let loose” in Zimbabwe to live with gorillas.
Soon after those remarks, which were met with public protests, the board issued a demand that Paladino resign within 24 hours, or they would petition for his removal.
Though he issued an apology of sorts, saying that he never intended to send the email for publication and denying that he was a racist, Paladino did not resign. Subsequently, the board did not petition to have him removed over the remarks, but rather over the disclosure of private information
Paladino, 70, is the founder and former CEO of the Ellicott Development Company. He ran for governor of New York in 2010, and came under fire at the time for a series of racially and sexually offensive emails, including one with a video of dancing African tribesmen, described as an “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal.”
Paladino has been an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, and was the honorary co-chair of Trump’s New York campaign in 2016.
Paladino has the option to appeal the ruling, and has already filed a federal lawsuit against the six members of the school board who sought his removal. The suit alleges that the members are using his disclosure of private information as a pretext to remove him from the board because of his comments about the Obamas.
MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, wrote in Thursday’s ruling that Paladino’s disclosure of confidential information was a “wilful violation of law warranting his removal from office.”
Paladino, who is ineligible to run for the school board for one year following his removal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.