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Town passes law on deputy supervisor

The Amherst Town Board approved a new local law Monday meant to "clarify" existing town laws about whom the supervisor may choose to appoint as his deputy.

"The gist of it is all the deputy supervisors should be selected from the board because they are elected," said Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki.

The new law is expected to ease an ongoing conflict between board members and Supervisor Satish B. Mohan regarding his choice last year of attorney Roy Wixson as the deputy town supervisor, a post formerly held by Bucki.

The resolution must still be approved by voters in a referendum during November's general election for it to take effect.

Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones had said existing law supported the supervisor's right to appoint a non-elected person to the deputy supervisor's post, but several board members fought this interpretation.

Council Member Daniel J. Ward this week called Wixson -- now a Republican board candidate -- an "illegitimate usurper of the office." Ward, the resolution sponsor, said the new law leaves no uncertainty as to who is eligible to be named to the deputy supervisor position.

Ward added that Wixson is the first non-elected person to hold the deputy supervisor's seat since the position was created in 1976.

Even though Mohan flouted tradition by choosing Wixson last year, he voted for Ward's resolution and said he intends to appoint future deputy supervisors from among board ranks.

"We amended the local law, and I like it, that the person should be from the board," he said.

Mohan added that the resolution still does not require him to present his appointment to the board for confirmation.

The deputy supervisor's position carries a $3,000 stipend.

In other matters, the board:

*Hired eight new police officers to fill existing vacancies created by the retirements of veteran officers.

The positions were approved without discussion Monday night, a stark departure from this past winter, when Mohan had initially resisted the hiring of five police officers, which would have expanded the Police Department by three positions.

Mohan ultimately relented after the Amherst investigators helped arrest Bike Path Killer Altemio C. Sanchez. The hiring of eight replacement officers Monday keeps the staffing level the same at 154 officers.

*Asked the building commissioner to work with the town attorney to strengthen the town's property maintenance code standards and penalties for owners who neglect their buildings.

Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum told the board he thought the problem with derelict properties stemmed from lax enforcement of existing laws, not the need for tougher town laws.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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