Share this article

print logo

Amherst Town Board’s new Democratic majority puts party politics over the needs of residents

Just because one political party prevails over another in a democratic election does not mean it should be time to clean house, especially if it means that doing so will be to the detriment of citizens.

Amherst Democrats might want to reconsider their actions following their recent rise to power in town politics.

Longtime Town Attorney Thomas E. Jones and his three-member staff were shown the door after the Democrats took over the Town Board. Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, one of two Republicans left on the board, has raised concerns.

Weinstein has talked about taxpayers “who would pay the price for not retaining at least one of the former members in the town attorney’s office.”

He is absolutely right. Whether or not you believe his claim that the abrupt transition in the office will cost Amherst taxpayers $100,000, there is likely to be a price paid in the smooth operation of the office.

Years of institutional knowledge are gone. Taxpayers have a right to be concerned.

Last November’s Town Board election and the incoming Democratic majority party foretold major changes in town governance. Still, the new Democratic majority could have been a little less eager to exercise its authority and more carefully considered its housecleaning at the town attorney’s office.

The Town Board majority has power over the attorney’s office. Jones himself acknowledged that the town attorney serves at the pleasure of the Town Board, and Democrats are “entitled to choose who they want” for the office. But emptying the office of all its veteran appointees takes a chance of disrupting the operation of the office.

Weinstein also criticized Democrats for selecting replacements in the attorney’s office without going through the town’s personnel department as had been done for his appointments.

The Democratic majority offered Jones an opportunity to serve as a consultant for the town attorney’s office for up to a year – an offer he sensibly declined. One of the three former deputy town attorneys, Patrick Kelly, did agree to remain on the job for two months. That will at least help get the new members up to speed. Here’s hoping they are quick learners.

The smooth operation of town government, not party politics, should be the guiding principle for the Town Board. The board’s new Democratic majority was too quick to start collecting the spoils of its November victory, failing its first test in office.