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Appointments spark ethics complaints

The Orchard Park Town Board made five appointments by a party-line vote Wednesday night.

Then, about 40 people ventured downstairs in the Orchard Park Municipal Center -- many of them to vent about the process in a second meeting, called by Councilwoman Deborah Yeomans to discuss ethics in town government.

The appointments included putting Kim Bowers on the Planning Board, pending her resignation from the Zoning Board of Appeals. She is replacing Michael McGuire, who resigned from the Planning Board.

The board also named Nicholas J. Taneff as Planning Board alternate.

Rick Zajack, the alternate on the Zoning Board of Appeals, was named to replace Bowers on that board.

Also appointed were Roland Pigeon and Barbara Little to the town's trails task force.

The appointments served as a flashpoint for the differences in approach and philosophy -- and politics -- between the Republican majority and the tandem of Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy (who isn't registered with a party) and Yeomans.

The appointments, which were taken as one vote, passed by a vote of 3 to 2, with majority members Nan Ackerman, David Kaczor and Mark Dietrick carrying the vote.

Yeomans and Dietrick clashed bitterly over the appointments, with Yeomans saying the majority has "offered a horse trade" to allow her and Travers Murphy some input and saying she had asked for a delay, but it was denied.

Dietrick said a trade was never offered and "the idea there is some kind of horse trading is erroneous."

Kaczor contended there is a difference in philosophy, saying the board has traditionally appointed people to lower-level boards, then brought them up to groups like the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.

"You can have someone come in with brilliant credentials," he said. "Then they can come in and just do what they want. That's a scary idea."

"What we prefer to do is to move people through the committees and watch how they deal with their groups, how they do their job, how they build consensus. Credentials are important, but a connection to the community is, too."

Yeomans had criticized the appointment of Bowers and Taneff because they didn't have the professional degrees of some of the other applicants for the positions.

Travers Murphy said her problem is "no reflection on the people involved; it's the process." She also criticized the appointment of Bowers, who she said "has been and may still be" an officer of the Orchard Park Republican party.

It was an issue that resurfaced later during Yeomans' meeting.

Louis L. Boehm suggested that when a political party accepts a contribution from a business interest, it complicates matters if one of the party's officers is involved with dealing with that business on a board.

"When they accept that contribution, that should bar them from decisions," he said. "They should have to step out and say, 'I can't vote on that.' "

Yeomans and Travers Murphy were the only board members to attend the ethics meeting.


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