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Court to rule on Amherst Town Board upsizing referendum

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The struggle over the size of the Amherst Town Board goes to court Wednesday afternoon, with State Supreme Court Justice Tracey Bannister to decide if the board should have six members or five. There are a series of legal issues involved, along with a referendum slated for Tuesday. Voters approved cutting council members from six to four in a vote in 2010. That started with a seat vacated when Barry Weinstein moved up to supervisor and it has stayed vacant.

Another seat is slated to disappear December 31. That's unless voters decide on Tuesday to reverse the earlier vote and keep the board at five councilmembers, a vote called by the Town Board.

Lawyer and Amherst Democratic Chairman Jerome Schad filed a lawsuit to block the planned vote. Weinstein says the board needs to stay where it is.

"We think six has been working fine for the Town of Amherst. We give our councilmembers a lot of responsibility with a liaison system. Different councilmembers are responsible for coordinating with different departments. They have a lot of responsibility," Weinstein says,

Weinstein says the public should decide. What Schad argues in court papers is that there is state law which allows only one change in the size of a legislative body in ten years, which he says bars another referendum on size.

Justice Bannister will have to look at a law which has only been tested in the courts twice over the years.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.