A vote Thursday to approved the merger of United Way of the Tonawandas with two other local branches is drawing criticism and those who oppose the consolidation allege unfair play.

George O’Neil, the executive director who is opposed to the merger plan, said Friday that he will appeal the decision to the state attorney general, whose approval is the next step in the merger process. O’Neil cited an unfair vote that he says left out some 30 members of the board of directors who were not present, but included others who have only nominal ties to the organization.

“I’m very concerned at the process itself,” he said. “If it was a straight vote I could accept it — if it was a good vote yes or no — and I don’t think they got that last night.”

Bob Sondel, the Tonawanda branch president who is in favor of the merger, said all the votes counted were from legitimate volunteers or donors, as defined by the organization’s bylaws.

At the center of the controversy for the vote, which was recorded as 154-30 in favor of the merger, was a proxy petition put forth by Sondel and signed by 115 people. O’Neil charges that a majority of them — an exact number of which won’t be known until the full roster is compiled next week — were friends of board members in favor of the merger who were persuaded to donate $1 in order to sign the petition.

The proxy petition allows a United Way member not in attendance at the meeting to defer their vote to the person who presents the petition. Since the pro-merger faction presented the petition, all 115 names were recorded as “yes” votes and the measure passed.

O’Neil said that the original poll of those actually in attendance at Thursday night’s annual meeting was 38-31 in favor of the merger. A two-thirds majority was required to approve the measure, meaning it would have failed had only the votes of those present been counted.

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