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Paladino continues to stir the pot

Board member Carl Paladino continued to stir anger and frustration among board members Wednesday night over topics ranging from the superintendent's central office reorganization, to her evaluation, to his interest in promoting neighborhood schools.

Some of his bald accusations were old ones and some were new, but his interrogator-style of speaking is unchanged -- frank, accusatory, and interruptive. He usually has the most firey exchanges with fellow board member Sharon Belton-Cottman. Though both would be loathe to admit it, they share some similar personality traits. Both are brutally frank speakers, and both tend to embrace confrontation over diplomacy when the conversation starts getting hot. In contrast, Superintendent Brown wears her calm composure like a shield in the face of Paladino's accusations.

During Wednesday night's committee meetings, Paladino said Superintendent Brown "deceived" the board in regard to how she reorganized her central office. He then accused Finance Committee Chairwoman Belton-Cottman of previously "obstructing my cross examination" of Scott Joftus, a lead consultant regarding the reorganization, referred to Sunday's News story and accused most of the board of "covering-up, avoidance and deceit." Some board members groaned, and some tried to calmly respond.

Belton-Cottman, however, said Paladino is not a lawyer who should be cross examining anyone at a committee meeting. "This is not a court case, and the way you came in here, I'm sure this whole place understands how the air changed ... Here's the most interesting thing about all of this. You have the option to talk to any of these department heads and get any of the questions you have answered, but you continue to just make a mockery of this board by wrapping all the time around your issues."

She then made oblique reference to the email he sent to her filled with criticisms and accusations regarding her committee leadership, among other things.

"Now," she said, "as far as I'm concerned, this is how I feel about it. If you have a question for me, you don't have to do it by email. You can ask me anything you want to ask me, and you believe anything you want. But for real, I don't have to lie to you. I don't know what you're talking about. I don't care what you're talking about --"

"But you have lied to me," Paladino interrupted.

"That's you're opinion. That and 10 cents won't get you a cup of coffee," she answered.

On the accusations and denials went. Cottman attempted to return to the agenda after saying, "This man comes in here with his evilness all the time. Let's move forward." 

Unable to restrain her final thoughts, however, she then compared Paladino to a bully who wouldn't be allowed in school, to which Paladino said, "How would you define how your acting towards me right now?"

After that loud and unpleasant exchange, board members practically fled from their seats until an administrator finally offered to round them all back up again for the next committee meeting, which started late in part because of the poisonous fumes that seemed to linger over the board table.

Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold didn't flee with the others, though. Instead, she stood up after the first committee meeting was over and informed Paladino that the two of them needed to meet sometime soon. She went on calmly but firmly state that Paladino's behavior was "very immature."

Paladino thought about this for short while, then told Nevergold he'd be happy to meet with her anytime. He then said he knew of a restaurant that made great meatballs and would treat Nevergold to one. Nevergold politely declined.

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |