Geoff Kelly’s story on the Buffalo fire department clerk paid nearly $600,000 over seven years while on suspension was the runaway winner of Investigative Post’s best story of 2023.
Kelly’s investigation garnered nearly 40 percent of the votes cast by readers, the widest margin since we instituted our story of the year balloting in 2013. The story was also the most-read story on our website for 2023.
Kelly documented how Jill Repman, known as Jill Parisi at the time of her suspension in 2016, kept collecting her city paycheck while working another job in the private sector.
Between 2016 and 2023, the city paid Repman $572,067, according to state payroll records compiled by The Empire Center, a government watchdog group based in Albany. Under state labor law, Repman continues to earn health and pension benefits, as well as vacation and sick days, while on paid leave.
Kelly, in a subsequent podcast, discussed his reporting and efforts by city and union officials to thwart him.
Repman was ordered back to work in September, but never returned to the office. Instead, she used accumulated paid time off — vacations and the like — before retiring at the end of November with a handsome state pension.
Kelly’s reporting prompted the Common Council to demand a review by the City Comptroller to determine if there are other instances of abuse. He subsequently reported on a Water Department employee who has been suspended with pay for about a year-and-a-half. The employee wants to return to work; the city won’t let him.
Kelly joined Investigative Post in April 2019 and covers local government and politics. He previously served as editor of Artvoice and publisher and editor of The Public, two alternative weekly newspapers.
“Geoff’s reporting, especially on City Hall, is without peer,” said Investigative Post Editor Jim Heaney. “He’s knowledgable and relentless.”
His original reporting was one of 12 stories that received votes for Investigative Post’s top story of the year. Other top vote getters included stories by I’Jaz Ja’ciel on looting during the Christmas blizzard, J. Dale Shoemaker on the impact of IDA tax breaks on school finances, and Kelly on allegations of racism at the Roswell Park Cancer Center and Buffalo’s ramshackle fire-fighting fleet.
All those stories also aired on WGRZ, our television partner.
A year ago, voters selected Ja’ciel’s report on Buffalo’s sky-high eviction rate as the top story.
Other recent winners include stories by Phil Gambini in 2021 and 2020 on the contamination of local waterways by E. coli bacteria and how much money police misconduct is costing Buffalo taxpayers, and Marsha McLeod’s story in 2019 on discriminatory traffic ticketing in Buffalo.