MAHOPAC, N.Y. -- The president of this town's school board resigned in the wake of community outrage over statements he made about a parent's weight during a public meeting, a district lawyer announced Tuesday night.
Applause broke out as the announcement about Ray Cote's departure was made at a Board of Education meeting. School board Vice President Michael Sclafani will take over as president.
Cote also withdrew his candidacy for re-election, school district lawyer Ralph DeMarco said.
Because ballots with Cote's names have been printed, they will continue to be used for the election, DeMarco said.
Parents knew about Cote's resignation even before the meeting began.
One of the parents, Robert Buckley, a friend of Cote's, told The Journal News earlier Tuesday that he had spoken with Cote, who told him he had submitted his resignation.
Parents received an email message from the board president, apologizing for his crude remarks, which were aired on the district's live feed from an April 8 school board meeting.
Cote was caught on video calling a PTA volunteer and mother of six a "chubby wubby" who "gets fatter and fatter at every meeting."
In his apology, Cote said: "I would like to apologize for my choice of words after the close of the board meeting on April 8, 2014, which are regretful. My words were inappropriate and do not reflect my feelings or attitudes. I will strive to regain the trust and respect of the community."
Bernadette Klein, a former PTA member, told other parents before the board's meeting that "my work here is done."
Klein, who has been pressing to remove Cote from the board, and other parents said Cote and some other board members often are disparaging to parents who attend meetings and ask questions. Cote and others roll their eyes and give parents dirty looks, Klein said.
"We were trying to expose him," Klein said.
The April 8 incident was just the first time Cote was caught on camera, Klein said. "He did it to himself," she said. "I'm hoping this will be a lesson for the rest of the board."
Former school board member Penny Swift said Cote made the right decision.
"I think it was the respectful and right decision to be made," she said. "This had appeared to be a pattern of behavior. I don't think it was an isolated incident. This is the right decision on behalf of the community."
Social media was buzzing with criticism about Cote's statements after lohud.com carried the video Monday evening.
Cote's remarks were the latest in a parade of Lower Hudson Valley public figures behaving badly.
Last month Spring Valley village Trustee Anthony Leon called Trustee Emilia White "retarded" during a heated exchange.
The Greenburgh school board put Superintendent Ron Ross, who is black, on paid administrative leave for allegedly calling black employees "Oreos," "an Aunt Jemima," "an Uncle Tom," and other slurs.
According to Jennifer A. Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist and an adjunct professor at Pace University, such behavior is a form of "stress release."
"It's a reflection of how stressful life is for all of us these days," she said. "People make side comments without really meaning it. I think many people do it. We all need to be more aware and mindful."
Cote is a member of the PRIDE initiative to promote diversity and sensitivity, which the district started in the wake of racist tweets by Mahopac students during a basketball game.
"The comment was definitely inappropriate," said Allison West, a California-based employment lawyer and an independent investigator in corporate discrimination cases. "Public officials in a public forum should follow a code of conduct. But often, people in powerful positions think these rules do not apply to them. But they are held to a higher standard by the public."
Contributing: Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy of The Journal News