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Concerns aired by board over role of Wixson

New Amherst Deputy Supervisor Roy L. Wixson was hired to monitor contract talks with the town's labor unions and to help with Amherst's efforts to collect reimbursements in two cases before state and federal agencies, his boss said last week.

But first, Supervisor Satish B. Mohan may have to persuade Town Board members to accept the first nonboard member to be appointed to the deputy's job in recent years.

One issue involves Wixson's powers in his new job.

Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones said that Mohan may name a deputy to represent him when he must be absent but that the deputy may not vote or take other action binding on the town.

"Any other activities may involve an impermissible delegation of authority," Jones warned board members.

Some board members also remain unhappy about Mohan's choice of Wixson for a job that has traditionally been given to a board member. And some board members said they were expecting to get the job.

Wixson, a lawyer and former town justice, will make $3,500 annually in his new job. He said he is aware he cannot set policy or obligate the town in any way. As he views his job, he will "represent, not replace," the supervisor during his absence.

In addition to observing the town's ongoing contract negotiations with unions representing police and other town employees, Mohan told board members that he has asked Wixson to keep an eye on the town's claims for millions of dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency for work done on Amherst's sewer plant.

Amherst has paid more than $1 million in legal fees to Zorc and Chase, a Washington, D.C., firm that is seeking an estimated $12 million in EPA reimbursements for the town. But so far, Amherst has received only a fraction of the total. Also, Mohan wants Wixson to pursue claims for a settlement from the relicensing of the State Power Authority's Niagara Power Project.

Still, that hasn't silenced Mohan's opponents, including several who aired concerns Wixson will usurp the board's powers. Council Member Daniel Ward also accused Mohan of "attempting to undermine" Town Personnel Director Robert McCarthy, who conducts labor negotiations.

Wixson pledged to board members that he will not displace McCarthy and that his role in the EPA matter has been limited to trying to speed up the processing of the town's claims.

"I tried to tell them that they have lost none of their power, but for whatever reason, they just don't want to hear that," Wixson said.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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