Perhaps it's more a matter of degrees of control.
For example, another forum that I belong to will delete/replace offensive thread posts, replacing with a message that says "Deleted due to offensive nature" or some such, leaving the rest of the thread visible (maybe as an example?).
Further, entire threads have been locked/made inaccessible, but still visible on the menu or in search results (also as an example?).
Also, users can earn "reputation points", voted on by the community. Perhaps when you reach a certain negative value, you get the boot.
Actions like these will leave a bit more transparency for the community, while frustrating the efforts of someone trying to goad said community.
Having said that, there should also be a process for changing moderators occasionally, no-one ever said it should be in perpetuity. Maybe we need a 2 term system, with each term lasting 4 years (but the first 4 years should be spent gladhanding in order to be elected for the 2nd term whereupon you do what you want).