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Mohan looking into why bills from vendors were paid late

Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan said Thursday his office is reviewing hundreds of recent payments to town vendors to determine how some of them became overdue.

Critics have said the delay was caused by Mohan's insistence on personally signing checks to vendors rather than using a facsimile and that he is risking late payments and cutoffs in supplies such as road salt and other town necessities.

But Mohan said he expects his study to show that in many of the cases, the requests for payments were languishing in town offices before being sent to him for final approval.

And those that he delayed were missing important budget information, he said.

Mohan's assistant, Sue Kogutek, was conducting the review. "If he was remiss, he wants to find out, and he will apologize," she said.

The issue came to a head this week when two Town Board members confronted Mohan regarding what they said were the town's late payments for road salt, food for the Meals on Wheels program and electric power.

Thursday, Council Member William Kindel said three town workers from the senior citizens center, whom he declined to name, told him that a large food supply company was threatening to cut off deliveries to the center because of unpaid bills.

The workers went on to say the company agreed to continue making deliveries "because of the employees' concerns."

An executive of American Rock Salt, which supplies road salt, also confirmed that he told Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson the company could not ship any more salt to Amherst until the town began paying outstanding bills totaling more than $200,000.

Before issuing the ultimatum, American Vice President Donald B. Holman said, he made sure Amherst would not be left without road salt.

"They had a full shed at the time we talked with them," Holman said.

But Mohan said that he did not hold up payments for necessities and that he delayed signing only those checks that "looked a little suspicious" or those that he wanted to make sure were within the budget.

Mohan also said he withheld checks for more than $200,000 in electric bills after learning that the town was more than $1 million over its budget for electricity.

And he released a copy of an e-mail from National Grid spokesman Dennis W. Elsenbeck praising Mohan's "due diligence." Elsenbeck also confirmed that the company would not charge late fees for the January bills.

"I applaud your efforts in reviewing invoice information in such a personal manner," Elsenbeck said.

Mohan said he was delayed in signing checks because the paperwork accompanying them did not include information about how much money was left in the budget to pay the bills. In the future, that information will be sent to him along with the check, he said.


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