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Amherst supervisor wants term limit law amended so he can run for board

Can Amherst Town Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein stay? Or should he go?

Weinstein has made no secret of the fact that he's interested in staying on the Town Board, but there's a question about whether he's even eligible to run for a council seat due to term limits imposed by town law.

Now, Weinstein has hinted that he may propose amending the law, to clear up any confusion about whether he can seek one of two council seats to be vacated after his second term expires this year.

"That might be coming next week," he said Friday about a proposed amendment to the local law.

Amherst adopted term limits in 2006 "to expand participation in the electoral process and to bring new ideas to governance of the Town of Amherst."

The law allows elected officials to serve two consecutive terms of four years each in the same public office. "Same public office" is defined as "any and all public offices that are the same as the office that the elective public officer last held."

But officials are also not prohibited "from seeking, being elected to, or holding another and different elective public office in the Town of Amherst at the conclusion of a term of public office."

To Weinstein, that means he's free to seek a council seat. His amendment would "clarify that the council members' position and the supervisor's position are not the same," he said.

"I don't think anyone ever reasonably expected the council members' position and the supervisor's position to be the same position," he said. "One is part time at $35,000 a year and the other is full time at $105,000 a year. They have completely different responsibilities. That's what I'm grappling with."

Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa said his office hasn't issued an interpretation of the law, yet.

"Nobody's asked for a formal opinion on that," he said. "People have been poking around to see what it would be but nobody's asked me to formally put it into writing."

Weinstein said he plans on appearing Thursday before the Amherst Republican Committee to seek its endorsement. Joe Spino, an employee of the Erie County District Attorney's Office, is also expected to seek the committee's endorsement, according to party officials. The committee in late March endorsed Erin Baker, chief of staff to Assemblyman Ray Walter, for one of the council seats.

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Weinstein, a registered Conservative, would also need a waiver from Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy to run on the Republican party line.

"It's not my decision as to whether I'm eligible," Weinstein said. "It's the party leaders and/or the court system."

If he does run and the local law isn't clear on the matter, it could invite a court challenge by his political opponents.

"If he runs I'm obviously going to take a look at it," said town Democratic Chairman Jerome Schad.

Weinstein would need two other votes on the five-member board to pass any amendment, including from at least one of the board's three Democrats. Convincing one of the Democrats to go along with an amendment meant to benefit Weinstein could be a hard sell.

"I can see him trying to pull something like this," Schad said. "I certainly hope he doesn't have the votes to play that kind of a game."

And if a protracted court battle over the summer doesn't end in Weinstein's favor, his name would be stricken from the ballot, putting Republicans at a major disadvantage. That concerns the town GOP committee.

"It does allow for some exposure," said Joe Heins, first vice chairman for the Amherst Republican Committee. "But I think it's all going to be part of the calculations that the individual committeemen have to make as far as who they're going to support for the second endorsement for Town Board."

Weinstein did not seek the endorsement of his own party, the Conservatives. Those endorsements went to Bill Kindel, the party chairman, and Baker.

"I didn't want to challenge the chairperson," Weinstein said, referring to Kindel.

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The supervisor's only chance to appear on the November ballot is through a Conservative primary, or as a Republican, with that party's blessing.

"That's why I don't know if I'm running or not running," he said. "They haven't indicated to me whether they would be amenable to that."

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