NEW YORK — The Buffalo Board of Education on Thursday demanded that Carl Paladino resign from his post on the board after making racist comments about President Barack and Michelle Obama last week. If he refuses to step down, the board will ask the state education commissioner to remove him, it said in a resolution.
The resolution — read aloud in a raucous room that exploded in applause when Paladino’s critics spoke, and in jeers at a board member who called for forgiveness and an apology — passed, 6-2. Paladino was not present.
“Words matter, Mr. Paladino,” said Barbara Seals Nevergold, the president of the board.
The words in question came in response to a survey about hopes for 2017, sent to members of the Buffalo community by Artvoice, a local weekly newspaper.
In it, Paladino said he wished Barack Obama would die of mad cow disease. He also wished Michelle Obama would “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino, a wealthy builder and political ally of President-elect Donald Trump, ran for governor in 2010 as the Republican nominee.
In a lengthy statement issued earlier this week, Paladino apologized to the “minority community” and said that his comments, written to “vent and write deprecating humor about a bad president,” were not intended for the public. He said he meant to send them to friends, but he hit “reply” instead of “forward.”
The school board was unmoved by this explanation.
Hope Jay, the board member who introduced the resolution, called his comments “unambiguously racist” and “morally repugnant.” Paulette Woods, another board member, said Paladino had violated the public school code of conduct and the state’s anti-bullying law, and if students behaved that way, they would be suspended. Woods called Paladino’s comments part of a “pattern of racist and negative behaviors.”
After the vote, Paladino sent a statement by email saying, “The Board of Education’s action today is certainly not an illustration of a profile in courage or leadership.” He said that calls of condemnation from the board members and other elected officials were politically motivated, and signed off with, “It’s going to be a very combative year.”
Thursday’s resolution calls for Paladino to resign within 24 hours. If he declines, the board will file a petition with the state education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, to have him removed. Elia will decide whether to do so after a hearing.
At Thursday’s meeting, Nevergold said she had heard from people across the country outraged by Paladino’s comments.
“They would like me to tell you, ‘You’re fired,'” she said. “But those are not my words. So I’m asking you to do the right thing, and resign.”
Paladino, first elected to the board in 2013, is not new to efforts to remove board members. Three years ago, he filed two petitions trying to remove Nevergold. Both were dismissed a few months later.