WHEATFIELD – Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe says that his election opponent, Thomas J. Larson, and Larson’s running mates plan to return Timothy E. Demler to Town Hall as town manager.
On the Wheatfield Republican website, Cliffe accused his foes of being “Demler’s puppets,” and said that Larson and Town Board candidates Michael A. Kislack and Karen McKernan plan to hire the former town supervisor for the newly created job.
Demler and the three challengers vehemently denied the charge, with McKernan calling it “a lie.” She noted that she defeated Demler in a 2010 Republican committeeman primary.
“I’m not even friends with Tim,” she said. “I see him, I can be friendly toward him, but we were opponents.”
Larson said the town does not need a town manager.
“We have a town supervisor and four elected town councilmen, and I think that’s plenty enough to decide what needs to be done in the town, with input from the public,” Larson said.
Demler, in an email to The Buffalo News, said the Town of Wheatfield “would be foolish to have” a town manager.
“I would be opposed to any such idea, and I can assure you (and anyone else!) I haven’t been ‘offered’ any job in any new administration,” he said in the email.
Cliffe said he did not have proof of such a deal but believed it was in the works.
“No, I don’t have proof,” he said. “It’s clear to me what’s going on, because I know the personalities involved.”
It was the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter battle for control of Town Hall, which is complex even by Wheatfield’s Byzantine standards.
Larson, Kislack and McKernan are all Republicans, but they were authorized to run on the Democratic line by Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nicholas J. Forster following what was reportedly a narrow vote of the county Democratic Committee on July 15.
Cliffe and the endorsed GOP council candidates, incumbent Arthur W. Gerbec and first-time candidate Randy W. Retzlaff, face Republican primaries against the challengers’ slate. But even if they win the primaries, the GOP ticket would have to face the challengers again in November.
Meanwhile, Kislack and McKernan also have Democratic primaries against Shirley J. Joy, the town Democratic chairwoman, and Judy A. Blake.
“If you have an available town supervisor, and one who knows what he’s doing, there is no need for any town manager,” Demler wrote to The News. “You can see why we need a new supervisor, but we certainly do not need a manager! I wonder where these fairy tales come from.”
Cliffe said he is sticking to his contention.
“Tim has wanted a full-time job in politics since he was born,” Cliffe said. “Why else would he and Nick Forster go to such lengths to make this deal where the three opponents are authorized to run on the Democratic line against Democratic candidates?”
Forster said he is not meeting with Demler.
“I’m not working with Tim Demler,” Forster said. “I’m not conspiring with Tim Demler. The conspiracy is all in their heads.”