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Pollster faults Mohan survey as bid to rush decisions with 'skewed' results

A professional pollster is challenging claims by Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan that an overwhelming percentage of polled town residents support his proposals to downsize, merge and shrink government departments, school districts and the number of employees.

"Mr. Mohan's questions present one side of the issue: his side," said Barry Zeplowitz, whose Amherst-based firm does polling work nationwide. "There is no balance in his questions so people could decide what position they favor based on all the facts, not just those of Mr. Mohan. In a political campaign, this would be called push polling and rejected by all fair-thinking voters."

In a message to all Town Board members, Zeplowitz added, "What Mr. Mohan has done is even more serious than push polling since he is attempting to influence public policy through his 'survey' and rush the Town Board into making these decisions solely based on his 'skewed' survey results."

Last month, Mohan mailed a one-page survey to 5,484 randomly selected Amherst homeowners, inviting their views "on some of the major issues" in the town budget and policies.

Mohan called the survey an attempt to give residents a say in government policies, but some other Town Board members criticized its wording as clearly biased.

Last week, the supervisor said he intends to base his proposed budget for next year on the 817 responses he received.

Upwards of 80 percent of respondents said "yes" to six different questions on department mergers and other government reductions.

In other news, the Town Board:

* Heard from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority at Monday's work session that an NFTA consultant is looking into the possibility of extending bus service to the town's Audubon complex, which includes the Amherst Senior Center. The NFTA board expects a draft of the consultant's recommendations late next month.

* Is being sued by James Peck of Buffalo, who had worked for Amherst as a computer support technician for two years. He was earning more than $30,000 plus benefits and was fired in May for failing to meet the town's residency requirements.

Peck is suing for his job back, claiming that he was denied due process as a town employee and that the board ignored his request for a hardship extension.

* Has authorized spending $13,700 from contingency accounts to repair damage to the Highway Department's radio system, antennas, camera and phones, after the department's building was struck by lightening.


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