A little more than a week after Amherst Supervisor-elect Satish B. Mohan asked for a public apology from Council Member William L. Kindel for remarks some described as bigoted, Kindel said Tuesday that Mohan should apologize -- to him and town residents.
"I'm the victim. I am," said Kindel, who has been a Town Board member for about two decades. "Dr. Mohan should apologize to me. He's calling me a racist. He's got a problem."
He also said Mohan, who was born in India but has lived in the United States 31 years, should apologize to town residents because, he contended, Mohan and his supporters started the controversy that has left the impression that Amherst is racist.
Mohan is "insulting the good people of Amherst. This is not a racist town. He is misleading [the general public] about a wonderful community. It's almost like 'Happy Days' here. It's a wonderful town."
Reached to comment, Mohan said he he did not "see the logic for me to apologize. I never called him a racist. It is the people who are making those remarks."
Kindel got into hot water last week after he publicly scolded Mohan and others for trying to speak without permission as the Town Board was preparing to vote on contracts Mohan had asked be delayed until he took office.
Kindel, who was leading the effort to ratify the contracts, shouted them down, saying -- as he looked at Mohan -- "This is how we do things in this country. We have laws in this country."
Mohan, an engineering professor at the University at Buffalo, said he raised his hand because he wanted the board to suspend the rules, a procedure that allows the public to speak when it otherwise would not be allowed to.
"They were voting on [contracts worth] $30 million. I thought it was important that I was able to speak, that the people be able to speak," he said.
Kindel privately apologized to Mohan after the meeting. But by the next day, Kindel's choice of words mushroomed into a controversy. Mohan said he received hundreds of e-mails and calls from residents upset with Kindel, prompting Mohan to call on Kindel to apologize in public.
Kindel also began receiving negative e-mails and calls, some demanding he resign or his family leave town and others that he said stopped "just short" of physical threats.
In response to criticism, Kindel issued an open letter Tuesday, explaining his actions at the meeting and declaring himself "saddened and offended by an attempt to discredit me."
In a follow-up interview with The Buffalo News, Kindel said Mohan's background might be to blame for his "misinterpretation" of his comments.
Kindel said he grew up in the ethnically mixed Buffalo neighborhood of Iron Island -- a "benefit" that he said Mohan may not have had growing up in India.
"The man must have grown up in a depraved society," Kindel said. "He's obviously a brilliant man. He's a genius, as far as I'm concerned. But he has a major gap in logic where he sees a racist behind every bush."
Kindel said the media, instigated by the Mohan camp, had blown the episode out of proportion. He then said Mohan should publicly apologize to him and residents.
Kindel also said time had come for Mohan "to get down to business, instead of chasing fantasies. He's getting sidetracked. I hope he can begin to focus."
He said Mohan, whom he had considered a friend, has been as a guest in his house on three occasions.
"I feel betrayed," Kindel said. "I thought he was a new friend. I guess I was wrong."
But Mohan said he has "nothing against him [Kindel] really. I don't know how to settle this. If I were him, I would have immediately apologized. But everyone is different."