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New Amherst supervisor hires campaign manager as chief of staff at $81,800

The new Amherst supervisor hired a chief of staff at a salary of $81,800, drawing sharp criticism from one resident and howls of protest from some members of the audience at the Town Board meeting Tuesday night.

The Town Board approved Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa's request to hire Joseph McMahon, who served as Kulpa's campaign manager last year, for the newly created position.

Mark Rivard, a Hendricks Boulevard resident, launched an extensive attack on Kulpa and McMahon's hiring. He said Kulpa campaigned as someone who would serve full-time in the supervisor's job, but creating the post of "surrogate supervisor" for McMahon shows Kulpa has no intention of living up to his word.

"Why is it you think you need help?" Rivard said. "Didn't you know what you were running for?"

Rivard also criticized the other four members of the Town Board, all Democrats like Kulpa, for going along with Kulpa's idea.

Rivard's comments were interrupted with applause from a portion of the audience, along with one person who shouted, "You're a fake."

Mayor Brian Kulpa

Two other residents who spoke, Jim Tricoli and Don Smith, said Kulpa needed to do a better job of laying the groundwork for the appointment and detailing McMahon's qualifications.

The criticism didn't end with Tuesday's meeting. The Amherst Republican Committee on Wednesday issued a statement blasting Kulpa and the Town Board for creating a "patronage" job for McMahon that would allow Kulpa to continue full-time in his private-sector job.

"Not only is this a broken campaign promise, it’s an egregious waste of taxpayer money and a flagrant disregard for town law," the Republicans wrote.

Tuesday night, Kulpa promised he would work as a full-time supervisor. He said after the meeting he has cut back to part-time status at Clark Patterson Lee, where he works as an urban planner.

Kulpa also said McMahon will improve communication among town departments and between his office and the public. The supervisor said he cut one deputy town attorney position and used additional money already included in his office's budget to fund the chief of staff job. There are now two deputy town attorneys instead of three.

"This town has organizational issues. This town has structural issues," Kulpa told the public. "There is a lot that is done backward in this town. We're going to fix that."

McMahon now works as a community liaison for Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, serving as his point person to homeowners' associations, taxpayers' associations and block clubs. McMahon also is a liaison internally between the County Executive's Office and several county divisions.

McMahon lives in Buffalo and received a three-month waiver from the town's residency requirement, but said after the meeting he will move into an apartment in Amherst in two weeks.

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