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The Amherst Town Board is considering a claim by Councilman Lawrence Southwick Jr. that creating a new accountant's position in the comptroller's office could save taxpayers "much more" than the $37,000-a-year salary.

The resume of Michael J. Lucey, a certified public accountant and son of town Highway Superintendent Patrick G. Lucey, has been submitted in connection with Southwick's job proposal, officials said.

In a town budget of $66 million, ample opportunities exist to cut operating costs, "but there is now no one with the time and expertise to look into (them)," Southwick said in a memo to Town Board members.

Political observers are watching the situation closely.

The Lucey family is influential on the Amherst Conservative Town Committee, able to command about 20 votes, party sources say.

The absence of the Conservative line nearly cost Southwick his re-election in 1987.

Forced to run on just the Republican line, Southwick defeated fellow Republican E. Thomas Jones -- who had the Conservative line -- by just five votes out of almost 31,000 cast in a contest decided in the courts.

Jones recently was appointed to a Town Board vacancy resulting from the election of Democrat Daniel J. Ward as supervisor.

Southwick said Monday that he wants the new job in the comptroller's office "to save money," not to curry favor with Amherst Conservatives in 1991.

Michael Lucey said he is in no position to keep political promises -- if there were any, which he said there are not. He noted that although he is sergeant-at-arms on the town Conservative committee, he does not serve on the executive committee.

Nevertheless, the early weeks of the Ward administration have been marked by the appointments of three enrolled Conservatives, including two top officers on the town committee.

The appointees:

Robert C. Simmons, town Conservative chairman, to the Amherst Planning Board.

Joan Springer, vice chairwoman, as Ward's administrative assistant.

Barbara J. Batchen, to the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.

The eight-member Amherst comptroller's office is headed by Comptroller Donald E. Burkard, whose annual salary is $59,979, and chief accountant Charles E. Vanyo, who makes $48,788.

Burkard declined to comment Tuesday on whether the position proposed by Southwick is needed.

"That's a Town Board decision, not mine," he said.

Michael Lucey is now employed by a downtown accounting firm. He worked for the Amherst Highway Department -- which has been headed by his father since 1974 -- from 1977 to 1987, rising from watchman to motor equipment operator, records show.

Michael Lucey is a 1982 graduate of the University at Buffalo, where he majored in accounting. He obtained his certified public accountant's license in January 1989.

Including the highway superintendent and his wife, 10 members of the Lucey family work for the town.

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