BUFFALO, N.Y. - Buffalo Developer and former republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino is suing the Buffalo Board of Education concerning the recent naming of Dr. Pamela Brown as district superintendent.
Now a judge has ordered lawyers for the Buffalo Public Schools into court next week, to answer why the appointment of Brown shouldn't be ruled null and void, as Paladino claims.
The lawsuit filed by Paladino, who has for years been a staunch critic of the school board and the city's school system, basically centers around claims the board violated its own policies regarding transparency, as well as the State's open meetings laws, in the process of appointing Dr. Brown.
WEB EXTRA: Read the complaint here.
Paladino claims one such occasion came on June 13th, when the board called an executive session to discuss what it called a "personnel matter", an hour after which board members emerged from behind closed doors --and without discussion -- approved Brown's nomination as Superintendent.
Paladino argues the nomination of a Superintendent candidate does not meet the narrow scope of the what the board can discuss outside the purview of the public under state law.
Two weeks later, on June 27th, the board met in executive session again for what was only disclosed as a "contractual matter", during which time it discussed a "transition agreement" for Dr. Brown, making her a "consultant" for which she would be paid $800, for every day she came to Buffalo until her final contract was approved. The agreement was backdated to begin on June 18th.
"We wanted to give Dr. Brown a little bit of time to work with interim Superintendant Amber Dixon during this transition period," said Lou Petrucci, Board of Education member, who served as the Board President at the time. "Putting all those little things in place to make sure the schools are open and running on September first...and that needs to be done right now," Petrucci said, adding that the board felt it was vital that Dr. Brown get to work as soon as possible, even though it would be weeks before she technically took over as Superintendent of Schools.
The $800 a day is, according to Petrucci, was a figure which reflects approximately what Brown will make when she formally becomes superintendent.
Petrucci insists the board acted legally and took all steps to ensure transparency but that, "when it comes to personnel and contractual matters those things are always done behind closed doors."
Through his attorney, however, Paladino is expected to argue that the board acted in direct violation of a section of the public officer's law which forbids the appropriation of public funds during an executive session.
On the advice of School District attorneys, current School Board President Mary Kapsiak declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit, but estimated for Two on Your Side that Brown has essentially earned close to $8,000 dollars in fees thus far. (Petrucci believes the figure is closer to $4,000)
The consultant fees are expected to end in less than a week, when the board is expected to finalize Brown's contract.
"By July 11th everything will be signed, sealed, and delivered," Kapsiak said.
Ironically, that's the same day arguments regarding Paladino's lawsuit will be waged for the first time in open court.
Paladino may have a legal leg up regarding at least a portion of his claim due to a NYS Appellate Court ruling issued earlier this year, involving a small school district near Syracuse which was sued under similar circumstances, and which found itself on the losing end of a ruling regarding alleged violations of the open meetings laws. (You can read more about that case by clicking here)
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher.