BUFFALO, NY - State education leaders in Albany are not commenting, for now, on a petition drive which seeks the removal of Carl Paladino from the Buffalo School Board.
“Because the Commissioner may be called upon to render a decision in an application to remove a board member under section 306 of the NYS Education Law, we cannot comment on this matter,” said State Education department spokesperson Jeanne Beattie.
Some community members are upset with Paladino for his insistence that controversial remarks made by Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump about women – while ill advised – amounted to "locker room talk."
Calls for his ouster from the school board are nothing new for Paladino.
This latest one involves an on line petition by Change.org, which about 2,500 people have now signed.
The petition was launched after the release of an 11 year old tape last week, on which Trump - unaware he was being recorded - is heard saying he aggressively pursues women he desires, by kissing or groping them.
Paladino, co-chair of the Trump campaign in New York, was quick to condemn such behavior, and still does.
"I do not sanction sexual abuse, I do not sanction rape," Paladino told reporters.
However, Paladino also classified Trumps remarks, as locker room talk and braggadocio. He also went so far as to say it was normal conduct for some men to boast of their “sexual prowess”.
“That goes on in our culture every day. It’s part of the male thing," Paladino said.
"Bragging about grabbing a woman by her genitals, is not something normal people do,” said Whitney Crispell, the mother of two children in Buffalo Public Schools.
Crispell believes Paladino crossed a line, and has no place on a school board, agreeing with the authors of the petition who wrote, "Allowing Paladino to remain on the Buffalo School Board makes the board complicit in normalizing rape and sexual assault."
“It’s nonsense,” replied Paladino, who says the attention being paid by some to his remarks is taking away the focus of the real problems facing Buffalo Public Schools.
And while the petition asks that the "Buffalo School Board remove Carl Paladino from his duties,” Paladino says those who wrote it, could a use a civics lesson.
"The board can’t remove me,” noted Paladino. “I'm an elected official. The only person that can remove me - after due process - is the superintendent of schools in Albany," he said.
More accurately, it is the NYS Education Commissioner who can remove a board member - but only for willful misconduct or neglect of duty, and Paladino insists his personal interpretation of Donald Trump's words or deeds, amounts to neither.
Moreover, removal of a school board member by a State Education Commissioner is historically rare in New York.
“To be frank with you, I’m enjoying my service on the board, and I intend to go nowhere," Paladino said.
Five female members of the board did sign a statement, admonishing Paladino for his remarks, and asking him to acknowledge that words do matter - and that students are watching and listening to the words of board members.
Paladino responded that he has a right to free speech.