Weekly Feature



2018-01-10 / Front Page

Kulpa defends chief of staff hire

by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

Despite objections from several people in attendance during last week’s Town Board meeting, Joseph McMahon, who led Supervisor Brian Kulpa’s election campaign, was named chief of staff at a salary of $81,800.

At the Jan. 2 meeting, Kulpa said McMahon’s hiring as head of Kulpa’s department “isn’t much different” from how the Supervisor’s Office was structured in past administrations.

Residents such as Mark Rivard of Hendricks Boulevard raised concerns about the hiring and questioned the ethics of Kulpa naming his former campaign manager to the position.

Kulpa defended the hiring by saying a chief of staff in the Supervisor’s Office will benefit communications.

“As I get into issues affecting town departments and interdepartmental relations, and town-to-outside counsel, town-to-outside agencies, it’s clear that we need to improve our communication system, and that communication system to me begins in the Executive Chamber,” Kulpa said.

The supervisor added that as a way to restructure funding for the chief of staff position within the 2018 budget, it was decided that a third deputy attorney would not be appointed.

Kulpa also appointed Julie Yates as secretary to the supervisor at a salary of about $42,000. He said Lisa Kistner, who was Weinstein’s secretary, will remain in the position for at least several months.

Also during the reorganizational meeting, Kulpa named Council Member Francina Spoth the deputy supervisor. The post carries a stipend of $4,000.

On Tuesday, Kulpa said the Planning Department will be restructured with the recent retirement announcement by current Planning Director Eric Gillert. Kulpa said Dan Howard, an associate planner, will succeed Gillert. He added that Howard’s duties will be fulfilled by Ellen Kost, who is also an associate planner.

The vacancy in the Planning Department will be filled by Maggie Winship, the Village of Williamsville’s director of community development.

Kulpa said he has created a shared services plan with village officials so that Winship will still have the post in Williamsville, but will spend four-fifths of her time working in the town Planning Department in a strategic planning and economic development role.

Another resolution on Jan. 2 that was also met with public criticism — a measure initiated and withdrawn by Kulpa — sought to reduce the number of members on the Traffic Safety Board.

Town code establishes membership of the Traffic Safety Board at nine members. Kulpa’s resolution also appealed for a requirement that members would have to attend two-thirds of all meetings and not be absent more than three sessions within a calendar year.

If approved, the resolution would have scheduled a public hearing to address the question of whether or not to reduce the board size and add the attendance requirement.

The Traffic Safety Board met 12 times — once per month — in 2017, with each session being held on the first Wednesday of each month. In addition, the board had nine members and five resource people, including police officers.

Larry Hunter, past chairman of the TSB and Eric Fraas, the organization’s chairman through Dec. 31, 2017, both attended the meeting to state their displeasure with Kulpa’s resolution.

Fraas said he felt the measure was out of order because alterations to the attendance policy and number of members must be submitted to the membership and approved by a majority vote.

Also during the meeting, the board approved its meeting dates through the end of the year, posting one less meeting in 2018 than in 2017.

The one-meeting difference is due to holding two meetings in September instead of three, which was the case in 2017.

Additionally, the board agreed to not change the times of two of its summer meetings to the afternoon, which the council had been doing for the past several years in former Supervisor Barry Weinstein’s tenure. As a result, all meetings this year will be held at 7 p.m.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, in the Council Chambers at the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.

The meeting is set for Tuesday due to observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 15.

Due to Bee press time occurring prior to the Jan. 16 meeting, a full report from the session will appear in the Jan. 24 edition of The Amherst Bee.

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