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Citizen panel to examine town government

Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan Monday won three key Town Board votes, including the passage of his proposal for a 14-member citizen committee that will examine every facet of town government.

Also enacted was a measure naming Mohan as the town's chief negotiator in future labor negotiations with town unions -- part of an attempt to win more concessions from town workers.

Mohan also won the approval of town lawmakers to replace two top aides to former supervisor Susan J. Grelick -- Town Engineer Paul M. Bowers and Comptroller Maureen P. Cilano.

At one point in the debate, Council Member Daniel J. Ward accused Mohan of trying to "continue your attack on the unions in this town" by seeking to take personal control over labor talks.

But Council Member William A. O'Loughlin defended Mohan, saying he was simply trying a new tack in trying to control town spending.

"If you always do what you've always done, you always get what you've always gotten," O'Loughlin said, adding: "Go for it Supervisor Mohan." Several board members resisted the measure, saying it was an insult to town Personnel Director Robert McCarthy, who has been blamed by some critics for escalating labor costs.

But Mohan agreed to amend his original proposal and allow McCarthy to remain on the team, along with an outside lawyer with expertise in labor negotiations.

Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones also advised the board that state law requires the town's personnel director be involved.

Some board members complained McCarthy has not kept them informed of important details in past labor negotiations and they have been asked to accept contracts with overly generous terms for town workers.

But others defended McCarthy, saying he helped save the town $2.5 million in health insurance costs by switching all town employees to a single provider."

Mohan also won the board's approval for his new citizens advisory committee after agreeing to allow each board member to choose two members, instead of one.

The agenda for the meeting also called for Mohan to reappoint Bowers and Cilano for another two years. However, Mohan asked the board to table the appointments, which in effect leaves the two department heads on what Mohan called a "day-to-day basis."

Mohan said they will be replaced when suitable candidates for their jobs can be found.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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