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Enforcement of residency law upheld

The Town of Amherst's strict enforcement of its employee residency requirement continues to withstand legal challenges from former employees who have been fired for failing to prove they lived within town boundaries.

Last week, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court upheld the town's lower-court win in November against James I. Johnson, the town's former assistant engineer who was terminated after the town determined he resided in Genesee County. Johnson has filed numerous suits and appeals over the years to regain town employment.

"The determination that the petitioner is a domiciliary of Elba rather than the town is supported by substantial evidence," stated the decision of the five-judge panel.

In addition, the State Supreme Court ruled last month that former computer support technician and Buffalo resident James Peck was not entitled to his job after the town fired him in November.

"The board's determination to terminate or recognize the forfeiture of petitioner's employment was not arbitrary or capricious," stated Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer.

Though Peck no longer lives at his Buffalo residence, the court stated that he failed to move within the required time period. His suit was dismissed.

Peck had listed eight causes of action in his suit against the town. NeMoyer dismissed all but two in November. The judge asked the town for more information before making a final determination on those and subsequently dismissed the final two claims in May.

Johnson's case has a longer legal history. The 13-year town employee was first terminated by Supervisor Satish B. Mohan in April 2008.

State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Drury ruled in December 2008 that Johnson was improperly fired, as Mohan did not have the legal authority to fire him without the Town Board's consent.

Johnson was reinstated in February 2009. The board then voted to fire him three weeks later. Johnson again sued for his job back. The State Supreme Court dismissed his case in November. Johnson appealed the decision.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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