BUFFALO, N.Y. - Carl Paladino has filed a lawsuit against the City of Buffalo Public School District and the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education, according to a news release from business attorneys Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP.
In the lawsuit, Paladino claims his First Amendment Rights have been violated. Specifically, Paladino claims those rights have been violated by a resolution calling for his removal from the board, following his racist comments toward the former president and first lady in Artvoice in December.
The lawsuit names the following members of the Board of Education: President Dr. Barbara Seals-Nevergold, Sharon Belton-Cottman, Hope Jay, Dr. Teresa Harris-Tigg, Jennifer Mecozzi and Paulette Woods.
Paladino's attorney, Dennis Vacco, says his client is seeking a trial by jury in the lawsuit.
In the suit, Paladino argues that the six school board members violated his First Amendment rights to free speech by illegally using his comments against him as they sought his removal from the Buffalo School Board. On Dec. 29, not even a week after Paladino's comments about the Obamas were published, the board passed a resolution demanding Paladino's resignation-- or else they'd start the process of seeking his removal with the State Education Department.
After consulting with a lawyer, however, the six board members then voted on an entirely different resolution a week later. That resolution did not seek his removal based on his comments about the Obamas. Instead, they sought his removal based on different comments he made in another Artvoice article (in a different edition of the paper), in which they believed he revealed confidential information about the teachers' contract negotiations.
In Paladino's federal lawsuit, he argues that these actions were proof that board members "retaliated" against him because they objected to his speech.
"It's improper for them to seek my removal on the basis that they've complained," Paladino said following a work session at City Hall on Wednesday. "And I will fight it."
Nathaniel Kuzma, the general counsel for the district and school board, confirmed that all defendants have been served with legal papers.
It is unclear whether they will need to seek additional legal representation.
"We're going to have to make that determination after we review the complaint," Kuzma said. "We'll sort that out in the coming days. That's all I can say on this issue at this time."
The federal lawsuit filed by Paladino is independent from next week's hearing with the State Education Department. Paladino will appear in Albany as scheduled to answer to petitions for his removal.
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