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Amherst to pay Kaminski $175,000 to settle lawsuit

The Amherst Town Board has settled a lawsuit filed against the town and Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson by an employee and political nemesis.

The case represents the first time in recent memory that the town has agreed to make payment on a suit alleging wrongdoing by an elected official.

The town agreed to pay Kathy Kaminski, a Highway Department employee, $175,000 to settle charges that she was subjected to retaliation at work for choosing to run against Anderson for the superintendent's seat in 2007.

As a condition of the settlement, Kaminski agrees to leave town employment and not pursue future legal action claims against the town.

Kaminski's son, who is also a Highway Department employee, was also given $5,000 in exchange for his agreement not to sue the town on similar, past retaliation allegations.

Kaminski was the town's first and only female Highway Department crew chief. In 2007, she ran against Anderson, her Republican boss, as the Democratic nominee in a bitter contest for the highway superintendent's position.

During the campaign, Kaminski said, she was forced out of her Forestry Division office and confined to doing cleanup work in the highway yard.

After losing the election by a narrow margin, Kaminski filed suit against Anderson and the town in 2008, saying that she was subjected to retaliation and suffered work-related illnesses stemming from her reassignment. As part of her filing, she said she was forced to sit in a town vehicle all day and ultimately suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Defendant Anderson has perverted the official non-discriminatory policy of the Town of Amherst to underwrite his own political agenda to punish persons such as plaintiff who have the temerity to run for political office as the candidate of the political party which opposes him," the lawsuit stated.

Kaminski had originally sought $500,000 in general and punitive damages against Anderson, as well as other damages against the town.

Kaminski ran against Anderson again in 2011 and lost by a wider margin.

She also sued the town and two of its employees in 2002 on sexual discrimination and harassment charges. That suit was settled for $25,000, plus $5,000 in attorneys' fees, in 2004.

Citing the confidentiality clause in the current settlement agreement, Anderson and Supervisor Barry Weinstein declined to comment on the settlement Monday.

As a town employee leaving town service, Kaminski is entitled to cash out unused sick and vacation time, and she keeps her pension benefits, though she will lose the covered health insurance benefits she receives now.

In other news Monday, the Town Board voted to:

*Promote Administrative Capt. Charles Cohen to the position of assistant chief of police with the Amherst Police Department. The assistant chief's position has been vacant for more than a year. Cohen, an 18-year veteran of the Amherst Police Department, will earn $104,193 in his new position, formerly held by Timothy Green.

*Give a raise to Assistant Municipal Engineer Brian Armstrong for expanded supervisory duties. As second in command in the Engineering Department, Armstrong will receive an additional annual stipend of $15,700.

*Borrow $1 million for various town road-paving projects and borrow $1.39 million for upgrades and repairs to the town's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

email: stan@buffnews.com