School Superintendent grilled for hours in Paladino hearing

Jun 26, 2017

Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash takes the oath at the start of the Paladino hearing Monday in Albany.
Credit WBFO News photo by Karen DeWitt

The Carl Paladino hearing continues for its third day in Albany Monday afternoon. The Buffalo School Board is fighting to have Paladino kicked off the board for disclosing teacher contract discussions in an Artvoice article. Attempts to remove Paladino began after he made racist remarks last December against the Obamas. School Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash was first called to testify when the hearing started at 1 p.m. 

Cash testified for more than three hours that he and Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore had an understanding that talks would be confidential. Paladino's attorney Dennis Vacco continues pushing Cash for answers, but Cash has been reluctant to answer questions about executive sessions.

Larry Scott, co-chair of the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization, was one of the few inside the hearing room for the first two days of the proceedings before New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

Carl Paladino (right) arrives for his hearing in Albany.
Credit WBFO Albany Correspondent Karen DeWitt

"My general impressions, I was surprised that how this was being treated as an actual trial, a court trial, as far as the questioning and examining was going and that it seemed as if the Commissioner was acting as a judge, getting advice from her own legal counsel at times," said Scott, "and just the level of detail and scrutiny was much more than I had expected."

He said, so far, the Park District board member has been "quiet and contained to himself," even refusing comment to reporters at one point. However, Scott said the hearing has become emotional each time Paladino's comments about the Obamas made to Artvoice last year were read.

"That was clearly upsetting to a few people, including Rachel Dominguez, a Buffalo parent that was with me from BTO," said Scott. "You could just see people in that room kinda cringing, having to hear detailed, hateful, violent comments that were shared in that Artvoice piece."

Although Paladino has been targeted for removal since he told the arts newspaper that he wished then-President Barack Obama would die of mad cow disease and Michelle Obama would go live with a gorilla, the basis for the unusual proceedings is a petition filed by Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold and other board members accusing Paladino of disclosing confidential information discussed in closed-door sessions.

Scott said Elia was "pretty frustrated" Friday when the hearing had to end early because no other witnesses were present.

"She made it clear that both attorneys have to find a way to get their witnesses in Albany and, if they need to stay overnight, they have to stay overnight," Scott said. "There was even question about whether Paladino's witnesses would be able to be in Albany Monday because they were expecting them to be there on Tuesday, but the Commissioner made it very clear, there would be no exceptions."