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Amherst mood not apologetic Council member's ethnically tinged remarks to supervisor-elect roil the political waters

Amherst Council Member William L. Kindel refused Tuesday to make a public apology for what many deem to be improper comments to Supervisor-elect Satish B. Mohan during Monday's Town Board meeting.

Kindel also said that his remarks to Mohan, a native of India, about "how we do things in this country," were "blown out of proportion," and that he still considers Mohan to be a friend. But Kindel, a veteran of nearly two decades in town politics, also ruled out making a public apology to the people of the town, as Mohan suggested.

"I think it's been blown out of proportion a thousand percent," Kindel said. "I'm not going to do that."

Tuesday morning, as the incident became the topic of conversation across the Buffalo area, Mohan said he believed that Kindel should publicly apologize to the people of Amherst.

"I felt bad. I was not shocked," Mohan said, adding: "It would be good for the taxpayers if he issues an apology. The person who they are sending to Town Hall is being attacked."

Mohan also viewed the incident in a larger context, saying he is aware that some of his critics, including anonymous online bloggers, are slurring him as a "little brown man" and referring to him with mock Indian names.

"I knew that these types of comments would come if we tried to reform," he said. "These people who are causing the problem will feel threatened."

He also said that if he became a threat to some of these opponents, "these are the people who have nothing to say, so they attack your race."

Mohan, who earned a bachelor's degree in India, came to the United States 31 years ago and earned a master's degree at Kansas State University and a doctorate at Purdue. He and his family moved to Amherst 19 years ago.

Outside of the University at Buffalo -- where he is an engineering professor -- and his East Amherst neighborhood, the 70-year-old Mohan was a virtual unknown. When he announced his candidacy, Mohan said he loved Amherst and felt compelled to give something back to the town where he had reared his three children.

A check of the official tape recording of the meeting showed that the incident with Kindel took place shortly before the Town Board voted on three contracts with unionized town workers -- contracts that Mohan and other critics say are too expensive for Amherst taxpayers.

Mohan was one of several people who tried to speak before the vote, but Supervisor Susan J. Grelick and Kindel refused them.

Kindel to Mohan: "No sir." (Other spectators begin to moan and object, but Mohan is not among them.)

Kindel, looking in Mohan's direction: "You may not like it, but in this country we have rules."

A woman interrupts: "We don't like it."

Kindel: "Well, if you don't like it, then keep quiet. We have rules in this country."

Kindel went on to explain the rules for public comment and then turned to Mohan saying:

"And Dr. Mohan, you were with me two weeks ago and you sat there with . . . [newly elected Council Member Deborah] Bucki, our town comptroller, our town personnel director and our town attorney. And I said to you then, 'If you have any problems with this, or any problems, get it to us in writing.' I have yet to hear from you."

Mohan, who will take office Jan. 1, called Kindel's remarks "not very civil" and "very insulting" and said he "just wanted to make a point with the board because I will deal with these contracts."

Mohan also said that the contracts and other late-year spending by town officials will make his attempts to cut spending difficult, if not impossible.

For example, he pointed to last-minute promotions of some town workers and the purchase of town cars for building inspectors, who now drive their own cars and are reimbursed for mileage.

"They are putting these through now because they know I will not permit them," he said.

Mohan, who has never held elective office, stunned political experts by beating the endorsed Republican, Dirk D. Rabenold, in the party's September primary election. He went on to beat Rabenold and Grelick in an expensive, three-way race for town supervisor.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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