The Buffalo Fire Department clerk who spent seven and a half years on paid leave — costing taxpayers nearly $600,000 for no work — has retired.
Officially, Jill Repman’s last day on the job was Nov. 30, according to the Office of the State Comptroller.
In reality, she hasn’t done a lick of work for the fire department since accused of wrongdoing in January 2016 and suspended with pay. Even after being ordered back to work in September, Repman used vacation days and other paid time off to avoid coming to work before filing for retirement.
It’s been nearly eight years since the city accused Repman — known then by her married name, Jill Parisi — of boosting her take-home pay by zeroing out mandatory federal tax deductions. She was subsequently suspended and served with departmental charges. The city intended to fire her, according to records provided to Investigative Post by the city’s law department.
The law department never resolved the charges against her, however, postponing hearings and finally dropping the matter — though not the charges, according to a city attorney — in 2018.
Meanwhile, Repman continued to collect a city paycheck, as Investigative Post first reported the story in September, even after she took a full-time private-sector job in 2017. She also continued to receive city health insurance, longevity bonuses, scheduled raises, and other benefits, in accordance with her union contract.
Repman remained on paid suspension until Investigative Post began making inquiries about her employment status in August. Those inquiries prompted Mayor Byron Brown’s administration to call her back to work at the beginning of September.
But she didn’t come back to fire department headquarters, where she’d worked for 20 years before her suspension.
Instead, she used paid sick, personal, and vacation days to stay out of the office until the end of November. In those three months, she collected six paychecks totaling $16,362, according to payroll records.
According to the comptroller’s office, Repman leaves public service with 28.31 years in the state pension system. Prior to joining the clerical staff at the fire department in 1996, Parisi did brief stints with the school district, the division of treasury and the police department.
“Almost one-third of her entire employment with the city has been in absence,” said Fillmore District Common Council Member Mitch Nowakowski, chair of the Civil Service Committee, upon learning of Repman’s retirement.
After Investigative Post reported on the Repman case, Nowakowski sponsored a resolution asking City Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams to audit departmental payrolls to determine the prevalence and cost of paid leave to taxpayers. Miller-Williams agreed to an investigation — a less thorough inquiry than an audit. She is expected to submit her findings to Council this week, nearly a month after the due date set in the resolution, which passed the Council in a unanimous vote.
For his part, the mayor announced that the city’s finance department would issue a report each two-week pay period documenting the number of employees on paid leave in each department. Those reports have been short on detail and never shared with legislators, according to Council staff.
Repman’s longevity entitles her to an annual pension of about two-thirds of the average of her highest three consecutive years of compensation.
Repman’s “high three” are the years immediately before the city charged and suspended her. In those years, Repman regularly racked up lots of overtime hours. So did other white-collar employees of the fire department, as noted by the then-City Comptroller Mark Schroeder in a critical audit released in March 2016, shortly after Repman was accused of payroll tampering.
Investigative Post estimates her annual pension will be about $57,000 a year, plus health insurance, using that formula. Her compensation last year was $71,509, according to payroll records.
Brown administration officials would not answer Investigative Post’s questions on the Repman matter in August or September, but the law department did respond to a Freedom of Information request — belatedly, after first ignoring it — in October.
The city formally accused Repman in February 2016 of tampering with payroll six times, according to documents provided by the law department. The following week, through her union representatives, she pleaded not guilty, and her union lawyers demanded the evidence against her, as well as other materials, to prepare for an arbitration hearing.
The city delayed providing that documentation, leading the union to file a grievance. In response, a city attorney explained that an “outside agency” was conducting “a criminal investigation, which involved the seizing of the [Repman’s] computer.”
The city would not proceed with “termination arbitration” until “ the outside agency concluded their investigation,” Assistant Corporation Counsel Omar Price wrote in the July 2016 response to the union’s grievance.
No criminal charges were filed. Over the next year-and-a-half, the city and Repman’s union postponed one scheduled hearing after another regarding the departmental charges, while the parties discussed “a resolution to the underlying issue.”
In March 2018, an arbitrator declared the case closed, according to the correspondence provided by the law department. The correspondence does not indicate if a resolution was reached, or what that resolution might have been.
By that time, Repman had already taken another job with Allwel Western New York, a home healthcare provider, managing the company’s payroll.
Meanwhile, Repman continued to be paid by the city. Between 2016 and 2023, she had been paid at least $572,000 while on leave, according to city and state payroll records.
That’s the what and the how of the story, Nowakowski told Investigative Post on Tuesday. There remains the question of why Parisi was kept on the payroll month after month, year after year, he said — each paycheck certified by the fire department’s timekeeper and commissioner.
“Accountability is needed for allowing this to happen,” Nowakowski said. “May this revelation linger around City Hall, so that it will never happen again.”
Michael DeGeorge, the mayor’s spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Repman’s retirement. Neither did Fire Commissioner William Renaldo.
Repman did not respond to an inquiry sent to her Allwell email address or to a message left on her company voicemail. Her profile was removed from the company’s website the week Investigative Post first reported her story. Another Allwel employee said he was unsure whether Repman continued to work there.