Upstate New York school board seeks ouster of member over Obama slurs

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 29, 2016 3:06 PM

(Editor's note: Third and fourth paragraphs contain racially derogatory comments that may be offensive to readers)

By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An upstate New York builder and former Republican nominee for governor is facing possible removal from his seat on the Buffalo Board of Education for making racial slurs about President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

The school board was scheduled to hold a special meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss the conduct of Carl Paladino, a board member who ran unsuccessfully for N.Y. governor in 2010.

Paladino created a firestorm last week when he sent an email to the newspaper Artvoice, saying he hopes "Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Her(e)ford."

Regarding Michelle Obama, Paladino said, "I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla," the newspaper reported.

Paladino, a wealthy real estate developer and ally of President-elect Donald Trump, issued a statement on Tuesday, four days after the comments appeared. He apologized for his comments, but also took a swipe at critics, calling them "parasites," and said Barack Obama was "a traitor to American values."

It was not immediately clear how quickly the board might be able to remove Paladino from the board, which oversees a district with 34,000 students.

A resolution proposed by board member Hope Jay and signed by six of the nine board members calls for Paladino's resignation within 24 hours.

If he declines to resign, the board would retain a lawyer to force his removal by New York state's education commissioner, according to the proposed resolution.

"Mr. Paladino took an oath to ensure that students are afforded an environment which is free from fear and respects diversity within the school district and the community," the resolution reads. More than 70 percent of the district is non-white, according to the resolution.

State education commissioners have removed four board members from districts in western New York in the past 24 years, the Buffalo News reported.

Paladino, a co-chairman of Trump's campaign in New York state, told a radio station on Wednesday that he would not leave the board voluntarily.

"I'm the agent of change. I'm the guy that exposed the underbelly of their corrupt and dysfunctional school system, and they want me gone from the scene," he said in the radio interview.

Trump's transition team has called Paladino's comments "absolutely reprehensible," USA Today reported.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)