New York Republican Ousted from School Board for Zimbabwe “gorilla” racism jibe

Carl Paladino spoke with the media at Trump Tower last year. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Carl Paladino, once a Republican candidate for governor of New York, was removed from the Buffalo school board on Thursday by the state education commissioner for revealing confidential information about collective bargaining negotiations with the city’s teachers union.

In December, Mr. Paladino made national headlines for racist remarks about Barack and Michelle Obama he made to a local publication called Artvoice. Asked in a survey what he’d like to see “go away in 2017,” Mr. Paladino said, among other things, that he would like to see Mrs. Obama “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

Days after the article was published, the school board adopted a resolution demanding that Mr. Paladino resign within 24 hours. In a move that came as little surprise to observers, he did not.

The board went on to ask the State Education Department to remove him — but not for his inflammatory remarks. The board said he should lose his post because in a separate article he wrote for Artvoice he revealed confidential information about contract negotiations that had been discussed and approved in the fall.

Mr. Paladino responded with a lawsuit that said the attempt to remove him was retaliation for his comments about the Obamas, a violation of his First Amendment rights.

A wealthy real estate developer, Mr. Paladino shocked the state’s Republican party by securing its nomination for governor in 2010. He ran against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as a fighter with salty disdain for political correctness, and a man who would take a baseball bat to the political establishment in Albany. While many of these themes would later appear in President Donald J. Trump’s campaign, Mr. Cuomo trounced Mr. Paladino on Election Day.

Mr. Paladino was elected to the Buffalo school board in 2013 and was re-elected in 2016. There he has had a combative relationship with several other board members. He petitioned the education department twice to remove the president of the board, but it refused both times. Both petitions were dismissed.

After his remarks were published, Mr. Paladino apologized and said his statements weren’t intended for publication. “Not that it makes any difference because what I wrote was inappropriate under any circumstance,” he said but he had meant to send them not to the newspaper but to friends. He said he hit “reply” instead of “forward.”

Frank W. Miller, the lawyer who represented the school board, said the comments were not the issue. “Like it or not, those are, arguably at least, forms of protected speech,” he said. “Our focus was on those wrongful disclosures he made from executive session, and the commissioner focused in on those like a laser beam.”

The commissioner’s decision makes Mr. Paladino ineligible to hold any school district office for one year.

Neither Mr. Paladino nor his lawyer immediately responded to a request for comment. – New York Times

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