Weekly Feature

2009-11-11 / Local News

Board must decide what to do with vacant seat

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

The moment Dr. Barry Weinstein takes the oath of office as supervisor of the Town of Amherst, the new Town Board will be faced with the decision of whether to fill his vacant board seat, and if so, with whom?

There are two years remaining in Weinstein’s four-year term.

The results of the Nov. 3 election created a mostly Republican board: Weinstein, current Council Member Guy Marlette and the newly elected members, Barbara Nuchereno, Steven Sanders and Jay Anderson. Deputy Supervisor Mark Manna is the only Democrat.

The board has the option of keeping Weinstein’s seat vacant to create a six-member board, an existing situation that resulted in 3-3 votes and failed resolutions this year.

In November 2008, it was Weinstein who proposed leaving vacant the seat of then-board-member Deborah Bruch Bucki when she was elected town clerk. The vote was 5-2.

This year, Weinstein said he will support a seven-member board. The issue last year, he said, was the board was even with three Republicans and three Democrats, and there would have been no common ground.

With the Republican majority in place, he would like to see another member added to the board.

The two senior board members do not want to fill Weinstein’s seat. Marlette, who will start his third year on the board, said he would support a motion to leave the seat vacant.

He said Weinstein and the three elected board members made it clear in their campaigns that they support the residents’ right to vote on downsizing the board. Because of that, Marlette doesn’t think it is prudent to fill the seat and then hold a referendum on removing two seats.

Also, if the board were to fill the seat now, that person would hold it for one year and have to run in the November 2010 election for the final year of the term. If the person wanted to serve a full term, he or she would have to run again in November 2011 when the term expires.

He said the board should schedule a public vote as soon as possible and if the downsizing is approved, then have only two board members run in the next election, instead of the traditional three. That would leave five members.

Manna said he would support leaving the seat vacant as a savings to taxpayers.

He added that he doesn’t believe a six-member board stopped any town business from taking place this year, and the items that failed would still have failed, but by a vote of 4-3.

“Why is Barry in such a hurry to spend taxpayers’ dollars?” Manna said, adding that the supervisor-elect will fill the seat if it benefits him. “We are entering the People’s Republic of Weinstein.”

Manna added that the Republicans had no interest in filling the seat, which was vacated by a Democrat, even when a qualified Democrat was recommended. He added that he’ll be watching to see how fast the Republicans find a candidate to fill the seat.

The issue of seat-filling was the topic of a proposition on the Nov. 3 ballot, but it failed when 57 percent voted no.

Had it passed, it would have allowed the remaining members of an elected official’s political party to vote on filling the vacated position. The law will stand as is, which allows the majority of the board to approve appointments.

Had the proposition passed, it wouldn’t have had much effect because of the 5-1 Republican majority, and the fact that Weinstein is a Republican. If the motion had passed and, for example, Bucki left her seat as clerk, Manna would have had the sole responsibility of choosing her replacement.

Should the board appoint someone when the seat is vacated? Send a letter to the editor to jfinch@beenews.com

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