Anthony Como, a lawyer who briefly served on the City Council in 2008, claims that he was removed from CTK’s board last year for speaking out on how school leadership treated Malcolm Xavier Combs.
Combs was a senior who wanted to put the name “Malcolm X” on the back of his senior sweater. Last February, the teen was called into the principal’s office, where assistant principal Veronica Arbitello told him he could not use the name.
According to Combs, when Joseph Arbitello, her husband and the school’s basketball coach, walked into the room, the vice principal mockingly introduced Combs as “the new Malcolm X.” The two then laughed at the remark.
“As a proud graduate of Christ the King Regional High School and a dedicated alumni member of the board of directors, I was appalled by the abuse of power of school officials and their blatant racism toward one of our students,” Como said in a statement.
According to Como, who would later file a complaint with the New York City Human Rights Commission over his ouster, school president Michael Michel told him that Christ the King had a “no nickname” policy. But Como said he later found out that that policy never existed.
The former board member said he urged board chair Serf Maltese, whom Como used to work for in the State Senate, to investigate the claims about Arbitello’s actions. He called for the school to “temporarily relieve” the vice principal of her duties.
But both Maltese and Michel not only opposed those calls, but scoffed at the idea of an investigation, Como said in his complaint.
In the complaint, Como also claimed that when Combs’s parents met with the school leadership, Michel told his parents he did not believe their concerns had any merit and that he “voted for Trump.”
“I personally viewed these actions by the Arbitellos and by Michel as racially offensive and insensitive,” he wrote.
Como added that by fall 2018, both Maltese and Michel had cut him out of discussions about how the board handled the controversy.
On December 5, 2018, Como was removed from the executive committee, he said. Then on December 18, Maltese sent Como an email informing him that he had “failed to attend 5 consecutive meetings without a valid excuse.”
The last meeting Como attended was on February 11. “You are therefore deemed to have resigned from the board,” the chairman wrote.
Como wrote that he had not attended recent meetings due to his son’s down syndrome, as well as the birth of his daughter. He added that he was never given an opportunity to attend meetings via conference.
“This is an atrocious attempt by you at silencing someone just because they don’t agree with you and your disgusting behavior at how you handled yourself and your attempt to try to run this situation,” he wrote to Maltese.
Como graduated from Christ the King in 1992, and has law degrees from Queens College and Hofstra Law School. He worked as an assistant district attorney in Queens for five years.
In June 2008, Como, a Republican, won a special election over Democrat Elizabeth Crowley to replace Dennis Gallagher, who resigned after admitting to sexually abusing a woman in his Middle Village district office.
Como later lost the general election that year to Crowley. In 2009, he joined the board of directors at Christ the King.
In his complaint, Como wrote that not only did he want to be reinstated to the board of directors and executive committee, but he also wanted them to pay for damages “for injury” to his reputation.
“I will fight tirelessly to ensure that Christ the King’s reputation for inclusivity, diversity and education excellence will not be jeopardized by those few corrupt individuals who profit from this institution,” he said in a statement.
The board of directors did not return a request for comment as of press time.