Failed bid to oust Paladino from school board

Joan Simmons, a city resident upset with Paladino’s conduct on the board, petitioned state Education Commissioner John King in late November seeking Paladino’s removal just five months after taking office.

“He has done nothing since July but create havoc, tension and animosity,” Simmons told Investigative Post earlier this week. “He is an unnecessary, destructive distraction to the board.”

Paladino filed affidavits in December that contended Simmons’ petition lacked merit.

King rejected the petition in a March 12 ruling that press outlets have not reported on. King, in essence, ruled that Simmons failed to substantiate her allegations.

“(The) petitioner has failed to establish any facts to warrant the removal of the respondent,” King said in his ruling.

Simmons, a retiree and voting rights advocate, contended in her petition that Paladino had violated board policies that require board members to:

  • Put the interests of school children first and “work with other board members in a spirit of harmony and cooperation.”
  • Avoid conflicts of interest and otherwise adhere to a code of ethics.
  • “Promote public confidence in the integrity of the governance and administration,” of the school district.
  • Make clear in public statements that they are speaking as an individual board member and not on behalf of the board as a whole.

“I contend that Board Member Carl P. Paladino’s action have seriously affected the board’s ability to successfully conduct the public’s business,” Simmons said in her complaint.

Paladino, in affidavits filed in his defense, said: “I deny each and every allegation,” and “Petitioner has failed to raise even a colorable issue of fact which would justify the draconian relief requested.”

King said in his ruling that Simmons “has not met her burden of demonstrating that respondent engaged in any wilful or intentional misconduct warranting his removal from office.”

Petitions seeking the removal of a board member are rare. The state Education Department does not tally a number, a spokesperson said, but an online search of petitions and decisions by the commissioner shows only a handful of such cases statewide over the past decade.

“It is rare for the Commissioner to remove a board member; the Commissioner considers removal a drastic remedy that should be taken only in extreme circumstances,” the spokesperson said.

Simmons said she was not surprised by King’s ruling.

“I didn’t expect him to remove Paladino from the board. I expected someone to draw attention to how destructive his presence is on the board,” she said.

Two weeks ago, King rejected petitions filed by Paladino that sought the removal of Board President Barbara Nevergold. Paladino has threatened to continue his effort to remove her through the courts.