BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Last week, the attorney for Buffalo Public School Board Member Carl Paladino filed a request with the state education commissioner to allow new evidence in three appeals for his removal from office.
"These aren't our records. These are the billing records of the lawyer that the majority members of the board hired to bring this action against Paladino," attorney Dennis Vacco said.
Vacco said he recently obtained an invoice from the lawyer for the board's majority through a Freedom of Information Law request.
"The Board of Education's lawsuit is pretending to be about something other than what it is," he said. "That lawsuit, when taken into context with the other petitions or lawsuits that were filed against Paladino, make it clear that there's a conspiracy afoot here to deny Paladino his constitutional rights."
Vacco said the records make clear the board coordinated with the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization and New York State United Teachers. He alleged the board's attorney advised members they couldn't legally appeal for Paladino's removal over derogatory comments he made about the Obamas late last year — then he helped the other two organizations do just that.
"They wanted to gin up these other groups to come after him, to inflame the record, if you will," Vacco said. "He goes so far as to draft a model petition for the other parties to use. He coordinates the efforts of the other parties."
Vacco said he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the alleged conspirators asking for an annulment of the appeals and monetary damages. He asked the State Education Commissioner not to move forward with her proceedings until the suit plays out in court.
"Whether she grants it or not remains to be seen, but that's not going to deter us from moving forward with our federal litigation," he said.
A fourth petitioner for Paladino's ouster, Buffalo's District Parent Coordinating Council, asked the commissioner Tuesday to place the same stay on its appeal.
"We were surprised to certainly see the content of the billing from the attorney regarding the situation and all the details regarding the different parties interacting," said Franklin Redd Jr., District Parent Coordinating Council.
The organization said it doesn't want the commissioner's decision to be tainted by separate litigation.
Furthermore, members said the lawsuit is more proof the board should be removed as a whole and replaced by a receiver, another action requested in their appeal.
"What we're seeing is the actual psychological debris that is causing our children to not achieve at their highest and best potential," Redd said.
The board's lawyer, Frank Miller of Syracuse, said he was preparing a response to the commissioner Tuesday, while a spokesperson for State Ed said she could not respond to a lawsuit that's yet to be filed.