Amherst Supervisor Satish B. Mohan plans to appoint Republican County Legislator Barry A. Weinstein as the town's deputy supervisor -- a highly unusual move, and one that is likely to widen the chasm between Mohan and the Town Board.
While the supervisor may appoint any town resident as his deputy, the designation usually is given to a Town Board member.
Shelly Schratz, a board member for several years, was believed by many in Town Hall to be Mohan's choice for deputy, and she had told him she wanted the position. But she got an e-mail from the supervisor Tuesday night saying he had chosen Weinstein.
"It's an insult to go outside of the board, regardless of who [Mohan] picks. The people elected and put us in these positions," Schratz said.
"It's a conflict of interest," she added. "He's an elected legislator. He should resign from the Legislature. How the heck can he be deputy if he's an elected official for the county?"
The deputy supervisor runs Town Board meetings when the supervisor is absent, fills in at community events, and has the authority to sign checks and transact other town business when the supervisor is not available. As a nonboard member, Weinstein would not have a vote at meetings.
The position comes with a $3,000 stipend; Weinstein said he would decline it.
Mohan said he chose Weinstein because Weinstein has said he intends to run for the Town Board next year.
"I saw a good public servant in him, and I want to encourage him and groom him to join the town. I think he'd be an asset," Mohan said. "I don't see any conflict. County and town are not against each other; we are serving the same people. It will complement, rather than conflict."
Mohan, a Republican, said he made the decision Tuesday night and sent e-mails about his decision to Schratz and current Deputy Supervisor Deborah Bruch Bucki -- a Democrat who was appointed to a one-year term in the post last year and also was a candidate for reappointment.
Other board members found out when they saw the item in their board packets Wednesday and Thursday.
Several board members said they were miffed by the impersonal nature of the notification. Mohan acknowledged Thursday it might not have been ideal, but said he was ill and could not stay up Tuesday night to phone board members.
Some board members have questioned whether Weinstein can hold both posts legally. The answer is yes, according to Amherst deputy town attorney Matthew Plunkett.
A person cannot hold two elected positions at the same time, but the deputy supervisor is an appointed post, not elected.
"You can appoint a county legislator [as deputy town supervisor]," Plunkett said. "There's no conflict of office there."
And Mohan's appointment of Weinstein is not subject to the Town Board's approval, Plunkett said.
However, the board may have other recourse. In a similar situation five years ago in Orchard Park, then-Supervisor Toni Cudney appointed Susan Kryszak, a fellow Democrat, as deputy supervisor.
Kryszak had run unsuccessfully two months earlier for a seat on the Town Board.
The four Republicans on the five-member Town Board, dismayed by Cudney's choice, promptly voted to abolish the position of deputy supervisor. Orchard Park has been without a deputy supervisor since.