The Buffalo School Board agreed Wednesday to hire a lawyer to defend board President Barbara Seals Nevergold against board member Carl Paladino’s petition to the state that she be removed from office.
Paladino has been pushing for Nevergold’s removal as president since mid-September but has received no support from any other member of the board. Wednesday, he once again submitted his motion for her to step down as president and received no second.
He subsequently sent a petition to the state Education Department asking Commissioner John B. King to remove Nevergold “for cause.”
In response, board member John Licata submitted a resolution to the board Wednesday asking that the district’s outside lawyer, Karl Kristoff, be authorized to defend Nevergold against Paladino’s petition.
Licata referred to State Education Law 3811 that requires the school district to assume any costs associated with a board member facing a commissioner’s proceeding “arising out of the exercise of his or her powers or performance.”
Paladino acknowledged that Nevergold is entitled to district-paid representation and voted in favor of Licata’s resolution, which passed unanimously. His petition against the board president will cost the district money because she must be represented by an outside attorney.
The only concern raised by Paladino prior to the board vote was that Kristoff would have a conflict of interest in representing Nevergold since he also represents the entire board, of which Paladino is a member. Licata responded that Kristoff is ethical enough to judge whether another lawyer needs to be assigned to defend Nevergold in his place.
Since September, Paladino has criticized Nevergold’s leadership and accused her of supporting “improper and illegal” activities by the superintendent, supervising a faulty superintendent-evaluation process, “sanctioning” improper district hiring practices and stifling open board discussion and debate.
Nevergold responded in late September that many of Paladino’s assertions regarding her leadership and actions “are based on your opinion, supposition, hearsay, and distorted and/or manipulated facts.” She also said many of his assertions “are simply untrue and preposterous.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, however, Paladino raised a new issue: He said Nevergold was improperly holding her position because she was appointed to fill a midterm vacancy and was never elected.
Nevergold said she just got word of this latest petition Wednesday evening and hadn’t looked at it.
She did, however, accuse Paladino of bullying and setting a bad example for youngsters in the district.
Nevergold, who has struggled to contain Paladino’s lengthy and aggressive interrogation style during board meetings, tried unsuccessfully early on to quash Paladino’s motions. In the past few months, however, she and other board members have simply worked to keep the meeting agenda on track while allowing Paladino to bring a long list of issues before the board at every meeting.
Wednesday, however, five of Paladino’s 10 resolutions were completely redacted. Nevergold said his motions were redacted because they were personnel issues or the subject of litigation.
The Buffalo News posted the unredacted version of his resolutions on the School Zone blog prior to the meeting.